Sunday, November 30, 2008

After the food coma

Well, Thanksgiving is over. whew. Can you hear it? No? That's because what you're hearing is a mostly quiet house with a mostly quiet kitchen.

We hosted our first Thanksgiving in our new home. I think it went really well. . I consider it a full Thanksgiving meal cooked even though I didn't do the turkey here. I did buy the turkey, thaw it, clean it out, remove its little "done popper thing" and inject it, and then finally sprinkled it with a sodium free cajun rub. (did you know cajun could be sodium free? I was not aware) I didn't cook the turkey, though. An acquaintance of mine from work offered her husband's turkey frying skills, and I happily took her up on it. My mother in law, Nancy, brought the wine, fruit salad, and rolls. This worked out really well, because these would be the details I think I would normally forget. We also had gravy from the Soup Peddler because when one fries a turkey, there aren't pan juices to be turned into gravy. . . that being said, I would not use Soup Peddler's gravy again, because it was not entirely awesome. (And that pains me to say because I love the Soup Peddler). . I made cornbread stuffing (mom's recipe), mashed potatoes with goat cheese and chives (Cooking Light), baked spinach with Gruyere (Real Simple - and real dense), cranberry sauce (the recipe is on the back of the bag of berries), sweet potato casserole with the praline topping, pecan pie (my recipe) and pumpkin pie. . and I am probably forgetting something.

We ate quickly and all that work was for a meal that lasted at tops, thirty minutes. . . but at least we are enjoying the leftovers. I feel actually a lot more relaxed than I expected to feel at this time. . .

I found time to knit on and off this weekend, but I am looking forward now to really throwing myself into the knitting. Because of the election and A Christmas Affair (learn more at ) I just haven't had time to sit still. I did read during this time because every night I would need a few minutes to slow down and turn off my brain. (I thank Allison and my mom for providing the reading list sitting under my side of the bed.)

Today I put away the Thanksgiving and autumn decorations and began dragging out the Christmas items. I am excited to decorate in this house for the holidays because when we bought the house, one of my thoughts was that it would look pretty decorated for the holidays. . I will be glad to see that happen. I will take pictures once things are up - it will be another week, though, because we won't be getting a tree until the end of next weekend!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ellie in her hat part two

This girl is growing! Luckily her Weller-hat will fit for this entire winter season. . .

Book Club Menu

Three Cheeses: An (English) Lavender Cheddar, Explorateur (a french brie) and one not at all memorable. . .

Central Market Rosemary Bread. . . .

Coq Au Vin. . .

Green beans, sauteed in butter with a few shallots. .

Lemon Mascarpone Cream Tart with Figs and a Cornmeal Rosemary Crust and Red Currant Glaze. . .

So, our book club meets about once every six weeks and I host about once a year. I hosted last week, and when I host I like to roll it all out. I prefer to cook something that hints on the theme of the book we read. . . we read "Perfume" and it took place in 18th century France. Having never been to France, I had to guess - wish I had some real exposure - but all I have got comes from le cookbook.

I didn't have much time or effort to put into the cheeses - I went on suggestions from a girl in the cheese department at Central Market. . She did just fine. The lavender cheddar was great for the theme. . the Explorateur was a big hit - that was about a third of a pound of cheese and there were no leftovers - and the third cheese was not special, really, and had the most leftover. . . The bread - aaaahhhh - I love artisan bread, and this is the CM Rosemary Bread that is served at Jeffrey's here in town. . . The rosemary isn't overwhelming but certainly dominant - and what I love particularly about it is the little dash of kosher salt that is sprinkled on top, but generally to one side. I like to eat the entire piece of bread saving that small chunk for last. The green beans were only because I needed something that I could call a vegetable. . . and they were great. I steamed them in the microwave as my guests arrived and tossed them in a little butter. . .

I had never made Coq Au Vin before. . . This was to be what was served at our wedding reception, however, looking back, I am now most certain that this was not the dry and boring creepy plum colored chicken breast we were served about three and a half years ago. I now apologize to all of our wedding guests. First, true coq au vin is to be made with an entire bottle of red from the Burgundy region of France. . . It should also be stated that true coq au vin is a peasant dish that is made with a mature rooster. Having nary a rooster, I used chicken thighs - they are generally tastier, cheaper, and fattier, resulting in a much better tasting chicken dish. This is not a peasant dish in the US, where the cheapest bottle of burgundy did set me back $14.99. . . and it seriously pains me to empty an entire bottle of wine into anything but a decanter.

One must marinate the chicken for 24 hours in the wine plus chopped onion and carrot and a bunch of whole black peppercorns. . . In the end, you cook and you strain and you braise and you saute, and you make a roux and you set things aside and there is butter and there are mushrooms and there is bacon. Seriously. time consuming. deliciousness. I would most certainly make it again for a dinner party or a nice family occasion, but it is not a weeknight kind of deal. Everyone commented that it was good, and Steven (did I ever mention that I have a husband?) loved it. The biggest compliment came from a book club member who I consider to be a fun and wonderful person but a picky eater - she went back for seconds.

Finally, I received the tart idea from a friend, and the recipe appeared in Gourmet or Bon Appetit several years ago. It was fabulous. I have to admit that I generally do not like to make recipes where every single component of the recipe appears in its name or title: Lemon Mascarpone Cream Tart with Figs and Cornmeal Rosemary Crust and Red Currant Glaze. That is way too much information. . . but an explicitly descriptive idea of what you will end up with. This was actually a great recipe - the crust was easier than your basic tart crust and came together nicely. The hardest part of the whole deal was finding a jar of red currant jam.

Anyway, it was all a big hit and I feel more educated for making this dinner. Only in the last twenty four hours has our house quit smelling like bacon, and that did get old.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did you Know?

Bleach, even in very diluted amounts, will, in fact bleach out your wood floors?

Well, now you know.

My baseboards in some areas look fantastic. Other areas are either beyond hope or weren't reached last night. The half bath looks clean again. There is now a spot on our stairs about the size of a baseball where I found stuck on mud. I used my little bleachy rag to scrub it off when I got to that spot, and now it is a light spot this morning. Boo. I guess if I am going to bleach out a spot on our floors, I am glad it is on the stairs, because that is a spot that will discolor from traffic again soon, and no one ever stands around on your stairs checking out the floors.

I did not get a cupcake last night, but I did have coconut ice cream. . . the cupcake would have been a lesser of two evils. Tonight, I am restricted to no dessert, because I have got to get back on a healthy train.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Too healthy for me. . .

Tonight for dinner we have: Roasted Veggies and mahi mahi. . . . a sort of weird combo, really. . .

This is what happens when you have too much on your mind and decide that dinner should be made and not purchased, but you can't string anything together that really goes. . . The veggies are parsnips (yeah - I had them hiding in the back of the vegetable drawer for a soup that didn't happen. .), carrots, cherry tomatoes, and red bell pepper, with crushed garlic mixed in. . . A strange combo of very autumn and very summer. The mahi mahi is a tamari-ginger/garlic marinade that will be going on the grill shortly - it is soaking in its bowl right now. .

There is rice going on the stove, and I had excellent intentions of making a salad, but I don't think I can go on. It is election eve, I kind of have the blues, and I have a weird desire to wash baseboards before I go to bed tonight. I have to act on these impulses because it will NEVER happen again.

I have had a serious sweet tooth lately, and having just read a post from a friend's website, I am desperate for a cupcake. I may have to go on a foraging trip after dinner. . .and only after the baseboards are washed because then I can call it a real reward. . and then the healthy dinner will be nicely balanced out!