Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Of all my forward-looking, I would say I was most pleased to see this one come about. Back in July, I posted a rant that we should tax junk food and soda and use the revenue to fund health care. Similar to a cigarette tax, this would help decrease the consumption of unhealthy foods as well as offset the massive toll the obesity crisis has had on health care costs. I was shocked and delighted to see that NY Gov. David Patterson proposed an 18 percent sales tax on soda just this month. I would love to see this get passed. It likely won't, but it will start a trend and just like banning trans fats and putting calories on fast food menus, it will eventually succeed.
Health Care Costs According to Your Habits
No secret the health care system is in turmoil. If the current diabetes/obesity epidemic continues, there is simply no way the system can absorb the costs. Look for health insurance cost breaks for people who eat right, stay the right weight, stay healthy, and don't smoke. Look for penalties and increased costs for those who don't make healthy habits part of their lives. In fact, I see a lot more ahead where we Americans have to be accountable for our actions.
Return of Real Food
I guess I am dreaming, but I always have to put this one forward. The economy is down and people are eating at home more, it's not out of the question. Additionally, this idea of cooking real food at home goes hand-in-hand with our nation's own struggle to get back to what is real and right. I will put this one forward once again.
Meat has been the centerpiece of the American meal, but a growing awareness of the environmental toll this dietary approach has will shift to a new embrace of vegetables. Maybe not a total shift to vegetarianism, but certainly putting the green back on the plate both for our health and our planet. Maybe it's just my optimism, or maybe it's that we will have a president who likes broccoli running the show. Either way, time to get reacquainted with the forgotten food group! Look for more creative vegetable recipes from me in the coming year.
With a renewed political spirit in our nation, not unlike the Kennedy years' "Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You," the coming year will see a new focus on being involved in our communities, our state politics and our national politics. Grab your bootstraps, kids. As for myself, I have volunteered to be on planning committees for a community garden and this year's urban farm tour. I will also be taking the eating local philosophy into more volunteer projects, and highlighting inspiring food justice issues (and the people behind them) here on the site. One guy in the white house isn't going to be enough for all the changes we need. It is up to us still.
Well, you got the main one for me — more community involvement. I will be documenting the work here on the site in the hopes that others will share their stories and inspiration, too. I also got spread too thin this past year with my work at eatdrinkbetter.com. I've shifted some of that weight and will be spending more time here with you and hope to add some cool new features to the blog in the coming year.
On the personal side, for me, more yoga and getting back into shape. I've finally realized that I will just have to pry bits and pieces of time for it instead of trying to find a whole hour or more. Just not realistic. What is real is my almost high cholesterol level (genetic!) and the fact that I really do want to stick around to see how my kid turns out. And survive my 40s without aging too much. I'll post a bit about my efforts on that front as well.
Wishing You a Happy New Year
It's been a rough one, not without a few history-making bright spots, though. This is the worst shape I have ever seen my country in, economically, morally, health-wise, infrastructure, technology-wise, environmentally. The years past that got us here were brutal. I've watched friends lose jobs, lose one another, watched the death of good ideas and the growth of violence. I think we are all a bit ready for the turning of the year and good changes ahead. I hope those changes help us all, that we help each other, and that we can all be a force of change for good in the coming year. My best to you.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Post-holiday, I found myself felled by a stomach virus and a chest cold courtesy of whatever germ stew had been brewing up at preschool the week before. After a couple days of not eating, you tend to get hungry, cautiously hungry. Comfort food is in order. Though, I have to admit, it was tough rallying myself up to create a recipe.
We cooked a turkey for Christmas, and I had about a pound of meat left once I pulled it off the bones. I wanted something more substantial than soup, but not too much. Pot pie. What's great about this recipe is that, unlike it's .99 cent foil-cupped Banquet brethren, you could actually serve this to company. For that, thank the herbs, fresh ingredients and the puff pastry top. If you are still tired of turkey post-Thanksgiving, just bookmark this one for next year's leftovers.
Before the recipe, a note on puff pastry. It is much easier to buy this prepared. Read the label. I had to search for "real" stuff that does not contain HFCS, trans fats and wheat gluten. Try a Whole Foods or similar store. The common brand you find at most grocery stores contains the bad ingredients.
Upscale Turkey Pot Pie
2 large parsnips, peeled and diced fine (1/4 inch dice)
5 carrots, peeled and diced fine
2 leeks, white and lightest green parts, rinsed well, chopped
1 small shallot, diced
8 oz. button mushrooms, cleaned, remove tough stems, chop the tops
2 large sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
3-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 lb. diced, cooked turkey
3 tbs. butter
1 tbs. olive oil
4 tbs. flour
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
black pepper to taste
1 box puff pastry, thawed
Place carrot and parsnip in a pot with 1-1/2 cups chicken broth. Bring to boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender crisp. No mushy veggies, not even in pot pie. Meanwhile, melt 3 tbs. butter in another sauce pan. Add the mushrooms, leeks, shallot, herbs and 1 tbs. olive oil. Saute until leeks are translucent and mushrooms are cooked. Add flour and saute for a couple minutes to cook the flour. Add 2 cups stock and stir until thickened.
Drain the carrots and parsnips, reserving the cooking liquid. Add the carrots and parsnips to the mushroom mixture, plus 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. (I drank the extra cooking liquid. It was very tasty and seemed like a good snack for a tired stomach.) Add the chopped turkey. Bring to a simmer and allow to thicken. Add the salt and pepper, taste and adjust.
Transfer mixture to a 2 qt. souffle dish. Heat oven to 375. Roll the puff pastry sheet out to a square. Cut to fit the round souffle dish with 1 inch of overhang. Place dough on top of souffle dish, fitting to the sides. Cut a small "x" in the center to vent steam. Place dish on a baking sheet (who needs to clean the oven if it boils over a bit?).
Bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes until the top is puffed and deep golden brown. As for the leftover puff pastry, you can roll it into rectangles, put dark chocolate squares in the center, fold, seal and bake. Serve these with ice cream for an easy, elegant finish.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
For starters, I don't think I can listen to the "chickamunk" song one more time. Again.
My child burst out the eff word today. She must have gotten it from The Grinch. Or Daddy. All are on the naughty list.
In an email I got from Healthy Toys.org, I learned the ballerina Barbie my kid wanted (and I gave in on) has a dress tainted with a high level of mercury. Thanks, Mattel. Scrooge you.
After schleping through the store to find a less toxic cheap plastic crap item, I arrived at school late to get the kid. At this point the Ghost of Christmas Past arrived. The Kiddo looked up and said, "Mommy, my stomach hurts." Next thing I know, we're both covered in barf. This would be the second year of the last four she's gotten stomach flu just before Christmas.
I am wondering, as I type, just how long until my Christmas Present of stomach flu arrives. Could it possibly be when the 20-plus people invade our house for dessert tomorrow? Oh, joy.
Still, could be worse. I watched the clip on the news of people walking out of a closing GM plant, all jobless. Crashes, deaths, mayhem followed that news item.
We're together, warm, healthy (mostly). What's there not to be grateful for there?
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Some people dream about dancing sugar plums (what IS a sugar plum?), me, I get all hot and bothered when my rareseeds.com catalog arrives. Ah, seed porn.
Even if I don't grow it, I do buy it. And I buy the unusual stuff. See, by the miracle of my new catalog, I now know that the cool purple pea pods I got last summer are Moonshadow Hyacinth Beans. Sounds cool, huh? I also know that I should not buy the older beans or dry ones as they could be poisonous. Good to know.
In the interest of transparency, I need to mention that I kill every houseplant I have. Well, HAD. My small entry into container vegetable gardening managed to survive and bring forth a bit of produce. I am hardly a budding farmer, or even a bud farmer.
Somehow, though, by my own stupidity, I am now on a planning committee for a community garden and possibly a planning committee for an urban farm tour. Just hope they don't let me near their houseplants. Green houses don't count as houseplants, do they?
Tune in for posts on the pursuit of a community garden and how tos, plus my other 2009 activities. I declared 2009 the "Year of Involvement." I plan on taking the local food thing outside my own kitchen and into the community through a few projects.
I hope 2009 includes some extra days outside the standard 365. I am going to need them.
"Mommy, don't sing. But I love you anyway."
We also watched this year's line of the Christmas shows, amazing they've lasted since I was a kid. Despite all the snow and winter scenes of the workshop, some of it just didn't stick. The kiddo was explaining Santa to a friend. "Santa lives at the North Pool. That's where we go swimming when we visit." Only if it's indoor and heated, Kiddo.
Next bright idea of my season was to go for the Santa photo. Usually, this is okay. But this year, the operation was being run by the Misfit Toys and Santa might have had a sketchy past even if the beard was real. Later, in the car, my child observes, "Mommy, Santa is weird."
"Yes, honey, that one was. Sometimes Santa has helpers for things like photos and it's not the real Santa." I said, in an effort to preserve some of the magic.
"Why was that Santa weird?" she asked.
"Well, honey, it's hard to get good help these days, even for Santa."
Tonight capped off the run up to Christmas, surely, though. We went with friends to see a large-scale puppet show of the nativity. I was thinking little puppets, no problem. It was like eight-foot tall puppets sitting on top of the human puppeteer, and kind of scary looking ones at that. My kid freaks out on the Easter Bunny and anything in a costume. Imagine 14-foot tall camels coming up the church aisle next to her. I could feel her quivering as she hid her face from it all. Great, I think we may have just traumatized her into being a Buddhist. So be it.
Not that we had made a concerted effort at organized religion before. I just thought it might be nice for her to think about Christmas some way other than chilling by the North Pool with Santa. Even if he is weird.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
We'll be serving Christmas brunch this year. I want to serve something special, but not have to work that hard. By the time we make Christmas Eve dinner and survive the holiday events leading up to Christmas, well, let's keep it simple.
This dish is similar to one I had at a favorite breakfast place with the best ever scones. The place closed, but not because of the food quality. I miss the scones terribly and decided to make my own version of the smoked salmon recipe.
Smoked Salmon on Herb Waffle with Creme Fraiche
for the waffles
1 and 3/4 cup cake flour (not self rising)
1 tbs. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup cream
3/4 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 1 tbs. for garnish
2 tbs. chopped dill, plus 1 tbs. for garnish
1 tbs. chopped chives, plus 2 tsp. for garnish
pepper to taste
For the rest of the dish
12 oz. smoked salmon
6 oz. roasted tomatoes (recipe) (or sundried, packed in oil, or in the Whole Foods cheese aisle)
3 cups mesclun (spring mix) greens
6 oz. creme fraiche (or sour cream)
For the waffles, sift together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs then add the cream, milk and oil and mustard. Whisk well. Stir in the chopped herbs, reserving the others for garnish. Add a few grinds of pepper and whisk.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing just until incorporated, do not overmix. Cook about 3/4 cup of batter in a round, belgian-style waffle maker for each waffle. The recipe should make at least six waffles with a "spare" just in case.
To serve, place the warm waffle on a plate, top each with 1/2 cup greens, then 1 oz. tomatoes, then 2 oz of slices of smoked salmon. Add a dollop of the creme fraiche and garnish with the reserved chopped herbs.
Main Dishes for Brunch
Hashbrown, Chard, Tomato and Ham Frittata
Breads, Pancakes and Waffles
Orange Brioche French Toast with Bananas Foster
Pumpkin Gingerbread Waffles
Red Wine Poached Pear with Arugula
Clementine, Fennel and Pomegranate
Arugula Salad with Bleu Cheese Crostini, Roasted Pears and Grapes and Honey-Wine Syrup
Red, Gold and Orange Festive Salad
Poundcake with Blackberry Wine Sauce and Honey Chocolate Ganache
Assorted Christmas Cookies
Monday, December 15, 2008
Shopping? Um, almost done.
Santa Visit? Done.
Wrapping? Um, almost done.
Baking? Oh yeah! I was supposed to bake!
This week's recipe carnival will help the rest of us who have not yet rolled dough for the season. For my own entry, here are tips on making gingerbread houses with your kids and tips on baking cookies with kids.
And here are the Cookie and Dessert recipes:
- Jennie W. posts some Christmas cookie links as well as a recipe for Mint Fantasy Fudge.
- Gretchen presents Simple Holiday Sugar Cookies posted at Dishes & China.
- Bill presents Christmas Desserts posted at Famous Recipes.
- Diabetic Recipes presents Diabetic Chocolate Chip Cookies posted at Diabetic Recipes.
- Famous Recipes presents Christmas Cookie Recipes posted at World Famous Recipes.
- Editor presents Molasses Spice Spritz Cookies posted at Phoenix Arizona East Valley Living Blog.
- NerdMom presents Best Holiday Cookie Ever! Chocolate Chip Peppermint Biscotti posted at Nerd Family Food.
- Stephanie presents Christmas Cookie Favorites posted at Make It From Scratch.
- TJ Anders presents Homemade Carmels | Just The Basics ~ TJ-Anders posted at TJ Anders.
Appetizers and Party Food
- Mark Harrison presents r4ph431: Bacon and Cheese Roll posted at r4ph431.livejournal.com.
- SeaBird presents Now bring us some figgy goat cheese - SeaBird Chronicles - SeaBird ChroniclesTo TwinFInity and Beyond!.
- Green Panda presents Throwing a Classy and Easy Dinner Party: Drinks posted at Green Panda Treehouse.
- ClaraP presents An Alternative Christmas Dinner from VegBox Recipes? posted at VegBox Recipes Blog.
- Thai Cooking presents THAI ICED COFFEE posted at Thai Cooking - The Taste of Thailand.
- Turkey Recipes presents Christmas Turkey posted at Turkey Recipes - Recipes for Turkey.
Off the Menu (miscellaneous entries)
- banquet manager presents That Friggin' Chef posted at So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager....
- Susan presents Sinner Saved: Frugal Friday - CrockPot Yoghurt posted at Sinner Saved.
- Joseph Lozano presents Grandma’s Mouth-Watering Salsa! posted at The Joe Review.
- Joe presents From Joe's Kitchen #2 posted at The Joe Review.
- Woman Tribune presents Garlic Pasta posted at Woman Tribune.
- Surfer Sam presents NEW !! Enjoy Mushrooms. Mushroom Types, Recipes, Magic, Health, WildSurfer Sam and Friends.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Less than a week after moving into the new subdivision, pieces of their house mysteriously disappeared and the inhabitants fell victim to some kind of savage attack.
Perhaps some new neighbors will move in as I am hosting the Christmas Cookie-theme Recipe Carnival this weekend. Submit your recipes.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Well, maybe because the same water contaminated with pesticides, industrial chemicals and flame retardants is also the primary source of water for two-thirds of the people and most of the farms in California. They grow most of the nation's lettuce there, and much of the other produce we buy at the grocery store nationwide. Same water.
Yeah, I know. It's holiday season, we're all just thinking about food now and I've gone and ruined it. After the holidays, tho, we really need to think about this stuff.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Pumpkin Gingerbread Waffles
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. nutmeg or mace
1/8 tsp. cloves (ground)
1/8 tsp. salt
Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl:
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. orange extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbs. black strap molasses
1 tbs. canola oil
1 egg, beaten
Make a well in the dry ingredients. Add the liquid and just mix until incorporated. Heat waffle iron and spray with cooking spray. Makes about 4 round Belgian-style waffles.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
I have no idea where the Kiddo saw a gingerbread house before, but it happened, and of course, she asked if we could build one, and of course, I agreed. And I asked her best friend to join the fun.
This is the innocent beginning to the tale of two four-year-olds (nearly), faulty construction, a long day, and lots of sugar. And an important lesson. The tale starts here, with a gingerbread house kit that proclaimed it included cutters and everything you need, except, oh, candy, and actual house piece cutters. It had gingerbread man cutters. Homeless gingerbread man cutters with no home cutters. But I will get there.
I was okay with the whole mix, figuring the recipe must be extra hard cookies for housebuilding, which is not my favorite kind of gingerbread. This part worked. I never use mixes for anything we're actually going to eat.
What didn't work, was that this kit required you to cut patterns of dough for the house by using the box (still assembled). You can't take apart the box because you use it later as a base for your house. You have to wrestle the box onto the dough and guess at the cutting where the house is still attached. Small children should not attend this part due to language expressed by cook.
Step One, Making the House Structure:
- The dough has to be very well chilled, adding 2-3 hours to the schedule
- You will need parchment paper to lift the pieces up and flip onto the tray so that the large, floppy pieces of dough sort of stay the right shape. Sort of.
- When you bake them, they swell up and stick together at the edges and lose the shape.
- You will need lots of cooking spray and lots of cookie trays. Like five trays.
- You will then have to match the pieces up and trim them as best you can back to a usable shape.
- Overbake the dough to make sure it is crisp and will stand up
- This process takes a few hours, your child will not stick around for this. You probably want to spend the hours of prep yourself and include your child at the assembly point.
- Who the hell is going to entertain your child for hours? Ah yes, invite a friend over. This does require assembly of not one, but two houses.
- The best part of the kit is the house to stick the cookie to so it stays upright.
- This is not the beginner house kit I would choose.
- With a young child, I would likely opt for a kit of all the pieces pre-cut and baked ready to assemble. Yes, I said it. Pre-made. It's not like you are going to eat the thing after it sits out getting stale. But, I bet the candy gets picked off ...
- To make my own, I would recommend baking forms that help the dough keep it's shape and keep you from having to make your pattern, stretch the dough, retrofit the dough, etc. These cost a bit, so be sure you want to do this activity again.
- I had to pull out the big-dog marble pin to work that dough. Good equipment helps.
- Good equipment is not included in the kit.
- If you want to feel like a total failure, look at books like these before you build a first one. Martha-effing-Stewart couldn't pull one of those off even if she does grow her own ginger for the dough.
Step Two: Assembly of the House
- The kit comes with royal icing mix, which is the right type of icing for the job
- The icing tastes like sugary plaster, which is kind of the point
- It's made from sugar, egg white powder (be warned of egg allergies), and water
- Really mix the stuff on high until it has the consistency of sugary plaster
- The cheap triangle-shape piping bag included is a weapon of mass frustration. Recycle it promptly before use. I used a real decorating kit, and that was the smartest move I made all day. The dumbest move all day was grinding up the plastic collar piece in the garbage disposal.
Step Two Lessons:
- Kids can help with the assembly part, Age four and above is best.
- You really can't fill some things in with frosting later. Like inch gaps.
- Faulty construction is a problem even for tiny houses.
- The cardboard box form was the best part of the kit here.
- Royal icing may just work for caulking the bathtub.
- If the candy isn't included, and it wasn't, get different shapes and a good variety
- Plan on twice as much as you need to decorate the house, it disappears
- Don't get your expectations set on a cross between Gourmet and Architectural Digest here.
- Pre-load the quality pastry bag with frosting. Set out bowls of the candy, fingers will be too sticky reaching into a bag to get it.
Step Three Lessons:
- This is the step where most kids have fun and want to "start" the project.
- Before your young child touches it, it already looks like a pre-K art project, don't get anal about the perfect design.
- Make sure your kid had a decent lunch, cause the rest of the day is blown nutritionally at this point.
- Screw Martha Stewart. With all due respect.
- When done, don't move the thing until the icing sets. It will. Boy, will it ever.
Seriously, the last thing I want my child to remember when she looks back on the holidays is Mommy being a perfectionist. Ornaments she can't touch, cookies that aren't good enough for company, perfect decorating she can't help with, color-coordinated Christmas trees, sterile, all-white lights because those are classy. Grouchy, yelling mom trying to make the house perfect to impress all-important guests and strangers even as she makes the family miserable.
That's not Christmas. That's the ghost of my Christmas past. It will not be Christmas present or future.
Frosting wars. Occasional sugar-highs. Wobbly gingerbread houses. Laughter. Messes. Things that break sometimes. Gingerbread men with extra "parts" (yes, my brother, that one is for you).
Baby, that's Christmas. That is definitely Christmas. And I am all about that.
Friday, December 05, 2008
The Journal of the American Dietetic Association just published a study that answered my question, "Why Eat at Fast-Food Restaurants: Reported Reasons among Frequent Consumers."
According to the study, the main reason people eat fast food is that it is fast. 92 percent of the individuals surveyed agreed on this rationale. The next most popular reason? Easy to get to, 80 percent.
Liking the taste fell to a distant 69 percent, barely edging out "cheap" at 63 percent.
Fast, easy, cheap. These are the defining terms for the relationship with our food for nearly one in four adults and children daily, and at least three times a week per person. It sounds more like a relationship you'd have in a back alley rather than on your family dinner table.
An interesting point the study brought to light is that only 20 percent of the respondents felt the food was "nutritious." The majority knowingly make a poor nutrition choice, valuing "quick" and "convenient" over even their own health.
11 percent cited the restaurants as "fun and entertaining." People, you need to get out more.
The study concluded that, with the tie between these food choices and our current obesity epidemic, that the best hope for changing eating habits would be to make healthy choices just as fast and convenient, or to get the fast food chains to make healthier items.
Me, I'll keep taking it slow. I like having a long, healthy and satisfying relationship.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
In fact, these recently discovered RXRs have such a significant impact on the body, that compounds that affect a related receptor often associated with RXRs are being used to treat diabetes.
Among the chemicals known to activate RXRs is the pollutant, Tributyltin. The chemical is used as a wood preservative, anti-fouling treatment for boat bottoms, and a pesticide on certain food crops. The pollutant also causes damage to liver and nervous and immune systems in mammals even if the exposure is a very low concentration. The use of the chemical in marine paints is a suspected cause of deafness and beaching behavior in whales.
Pollutants with similar properties are widely used and potentially have the same effect on gene activity, triggering obesity. These chemicals include bisphenol A. Of course, the FDA still considers it safe ...
Guess I will stick to organic pie and store it in a glass container.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
The holidays keep rolling. So do I after all the pie.
We've been living on leftovers at The Kitchen. It's given my "dishpan hands" time to recover with the 14 hours of cooking before Thanksgiving. Two days before the holiday dinner, I had a wisdom tooth pulled and a raging sinus infection. By Friday, I was beat up. Frankly, I needed a break!
So, I got a day off ... heh. But now it is back at it to plan for the gingerbread houses, cookies, and Christmas dinner-lunch-brunch, and New Year's appetizers ahead. Look for all these recipes to come starting with the Red Wine Poached Pear Salad posted yesterday.
If you have a particular menu type you are trying to plan, leave me a comment, and I will do my best to post a recipe for it.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
To give the holiday dinner some festive color, the pears in this salad are first poached in red wine and spices. The deep scarlet color set off against peppery arugula make a perfect Christmas dinner salad.
You don't have to tell anyone it's easy, either.
Red Wine Poached Pear Salad
For the Pears
3 large winter pears, peeled, halved and cored, sliced lengthwise
2 cups red table wine or Cabernet
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
4 Szechuan peppercorns (optional, available Penzeys.com)
1 tbs. sugar
For the Salad
4 cups arugula
3 tbs. honey
1/4 cup total of sliced almonds, walnuts and pecans
3 oz. bleu cheese crumbles
2 tsp. lemon juice
Heat the wine, sugar, lemon juice and spices in a sauce pot. Add the sliced pears, cover pot, leaving partially uncovered. Simmer for 40 minutes. Let cool. Remove pears and spices. Place pot back on heat and reduce to a thick syrup.
When pears are room temperature, slice and arrange on top of arugula. Drizzle on the red wine syrup and honey. Sprinkle with bleu cheese and the nuts.
Monday, December 01, 2008
What could be done, what I would cook, would be whatever is in season at the time, gathered locally. The dinner would last a few days as I would require the new president to go with me as I gathered all the ingredients. I would want him to listen to the farmers who grew the food. Hear their take on the Farm Bill, on rural life, on food. Once I got the ingredients prepared, I would ask the farmers to join us at the table for the meal.
Perhaps the food would not be the best, or even memorable, among all the meals our new president will eat during his time in office. But, I would hope the experience would stay with him.
Your turn. What would you cook for President Obama?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
- List one: Household chores that need to be done prior to the cooking. This list gets started two weeks ahead of the event.
- List two: the menu. Gotta know where you are headed.
- List three: The shopping list, one page, several days of errands, all on one sheet of paper. Don't lose this list.
- List four: All the recipes printed out (if possible) or gathered.
- List five: The chop list. This one takes all the various vegetables that are needed, quantity, type of chop, etc. and puts all the prep work together. Sounds odd, we all think of recipes one at a time. For big meals, it makes more sense to combine prep work. For example, the gratin and the green bean casserole both use two chopped shallots. On the list, put down one line item for four chopped shallots and do the prep all at once. It is also a great list in case you have kitchen help or a spouse that likes to chop. You can hand them the list and work on other items. And, yes, do all your chop and prep the day ahead even if you can't complete the recipe. You'll be amazed at how much easier it makes life the day of.
- List six: Yes, I know, I am anally-retentive. I said it. This one is important. The oven list. This list tells you what temperature the oven needs to work at, when each dish needs to go in (and out). The timing works backward from meal time. This list is important for everything to hit the table in sync. You can go a bit further and add the stove items and all the steps you have to do on the day of (in order) before meal time. It sounds crazy, but kids, there is a reason I got a rock solid A on my practical exam in culinary school. I had a list. One person, five dishes, 90 minutes. No special talent, just a list.
I'll post the sample lists once the holiday is complete. Christmas dinner is coming, and I hear that's the best time of year to make lists and check them. I'll post the final menu and the lists for next Thanksgiving as well.
By now, you menu is set and you are headed to bed to get some rest. Big day of pie making tomorrow. Have a wonderful holiday!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Seriously, how do you manage the days ahead? I make a list.
Finalize Menu, consider number of burners, oven, oven temp. when planning, and time
Make Shopping List
Set Table (if you don't need it before then)
Make applesauce and freeze
Clean out fridge to make space
2-3 Days Before:
Shopping, Use List!
One Day Before:
Prep All Veggies for Next Day (clean, chop, measure, bag and store!)
Brine turkey if needed
Make any dressings for salad
You can make the gratin ahead and some veggie dishes cover and store in baking dish (fridge), allow time to come to room temp before baking next day! Usually, you can make ahead stuffings and casserole-type dishes, rolls/bread, pies, etc.
Run the dishwasher and empty so it is ready
Review your recipes for baking times and temp. Schedule your oven time.
Check for necessary equipment like a meat thermometer
Review your timing plan over cup of strong coffee
Ready, Set, Go!
Delegate, baby, delegate!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Thanksgiving menu looking a little heavy on the calorie-meter? Here's a nice salad that offers a bright, light contrast to the usual feast yet still marries well with fall's classic dishes.
Orange, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad
5 oranges, rind cut off and sliced
3 medium fennel bulbs chopped, plus 2 tbs. of the fennel fronds
1 pomegranate, seeded
6 cups mixed greens
For Dressing, Whisk Together:
Juice of 1 lemon, about 1/4 cup
2 tbs Champagne vinegar
3 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. honey
salt and pepper to taste
Toss first 3 ingredients together, place over the greens. Dress with lemon vinaigrette.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I don't get as many visitors to my office this way.
Still, reverse engineering has it's place especially when it comes to family dinners. Seems like a few folks at the table are adamant about certain dishes being on the menu, and others of us insist on trying new things. Not too many Thanksgiving dishes hold this honor as much as Green Bean Casserole.
I will admit that I have never been excited about the mushy result of canned green beans, canned soup, canned crunchy onions, and cornflakes. The whole dish is like a tribute to the processed food industry. Let's un-process it, shall we? The final result will be crisp green beans, lots of mushroom goodness, fresh herbs, and a bread crumb, caramelized onion and Parmesan crust. It's good enough to make me forget all about any previous version.
Best Ever Real Green Bean Casserole
2 lbs. fresh green beans
2 shallots, minced
3/4 pounds cremini or other gourmet mushroom, chopped
2 tbs. fresh thyme (or 1 tbs. dried thyme)
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup 2 percent milk
2 tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 caramelized onion (recipe here)
1-1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan
Blanch the green beans for 2 minutes, shock in ice bath immediately to stop cooking. Chop green beans into 1-2 inch pieces. Set in a layer in a 9x13 casserole dish.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the shallot and saute for a couple minutes. Add the mushrooms and the thyme and saute until the mushrooms are softened and the shallot is golden, about 7 minutes. Add the flour and saute for another 2 minutes.
Add the cream and stir to mix. Add the milk. Season with salt and pepper, cook on lower heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Pour over the green beans, tossing to coat. Spread into an even layer.
Place the bread crumbs and Parmesan in a bowl and mix together. Add the onions and toss to coat evenly. Spread the onion and bread crumb layer evenly over the green beans.
You can prep up to this point and refrigerate. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake casserole for 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden brown and crisp. Serve with the gratitude that you ate something real.
As for my own memory of traditions, this year I will most certainly be thinking of my grandfather whom I lost earlier this year. He was in that Greatest Generation, having his childhood marked by The Great Depression and his early adulthood serving in World War II. He grew up as a devout Catholic in a struggling family with a lot of siblings.
Every Thanksgiving, just after we all held hands and said a word of Thanks, Grandpa would interject his own prayer from his experiences:
"Father, Son, Holy Ghost, whoever eats the fastest gets the most. Amen."
Then he would laugh and wink. Indeed, tough times required a sense of humor, and, while we may be facing more of a Lesser Depression right now than the Great one, it's going to be a challenging season for us all. It's a time when counting blessings is even more important. If you have family and friends at your table, food on the table, and a secure roof over the table, then you are truly blessed.
I wish each of you a happy and safe holiday, these simple blessings, and the hope that we can all remember others who are not as fortunate this season. And hope. I wish us all hope. Eat fast.
EducationErin presents Keeping the Faith, Even in the Midst of Academic Struggles posted at School Psychologist Blog Files.
Alvaro Fernandez presents Neuroplasticity and the Brain That Changes Itself posted at SharpBrains, saying, "Review of a great book with compelling tales about the amazing abilities of the brain to rewire, readjust and relearn."
Rose presents Schools remind me why I homeschool - Learning at Home : Appeal-Democrat posted at Learning at Home.
Family Cooking & RecipesAnnette Berlin presents Baked French Toast posted at Craft Stew. "Baked french toast makes a quick and easy Sunday morning breakfast," writes Annette. "It only takes ten minutes to prepare, leaving you free to spend the rest of the morning with your family."
Chief Family Officer presents A typical lunch for the boys: Fried mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, grapes and a vanilla wafer posted at Chief Family Officer.
Stephanie presents Pulling Off a Thanksgiving Feast posted at Make It From Scratch.
Family Crafts and ActivitiesTiffany Washko presents Cheap and Easy Entertainment posted at The Attached Parent.
Katey Magill presents Shaving Cream Bathtub Paint posted at Having Fun at Home, saying, "An inexpensive fun idea for the best bathtime ever!"
HappyCampers presents Easy Homemade Gift Idea posted at The Adventures Of The Williams Family. This simple and cheap body scrub recipe was a big hit at Mother's Day when Laura and her son made it for their Mommy friends. "We plan to make another batch for Christmas gifts," she writes.
MoneyNing presents Celebrating Thanksgiving is a Must This Year posted at Money Ning, saying, "Thanksgiving is one of the fun holidays of the year! No matter what, you should celebrate!"
Joanne presents Make Stuff Your Kids Can Play With posted at Simply Saving, saying, "A variety of recipes for clay that you can make with your kids."
Stephanie presents A Christmas Craft for Preschoolers posted at Stop the Ride!.
Stephanie presents Mitten Gift Bag/Decoration posted at Make It From Scratch.
AmyL presents Togetherness Crafts: Making a Unique Pillowcase posted at Earnest Parenting, saying, "Kids can be a big part of making their own pillowcases, from choosing fabrics to actually sewing them together. A quick and straightforward project to do together."
Family FinanceHeather Levin presents How To Set Up A Community Lending Library posted at The Greenest Dollar.
Polly Poorhouse presents 10 Cheap Things to Do With Kids posted at Economic Crunch. These days there is so much to do . . . with so little money. Polly offers some creative solutions.
Super Saver presents Financial Lessons from my Parents' Generation Re-Learned posted at My Wealth Builder, saying, "The financial lessons my parents learned from the Great Depression were valuable during the financial crisis of 2008."
Jim presents 0% Credit Cards: No Interest Purchases & Balance Transfers Offers posted at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.
Michael. presents The Jammie Thomas Case: RIAA Strikes Hard at Kazaa Users posted at International Law News, saying, "The RIAA wins a $222,000 lawsuit against a single mother of two for downloading music online. What do you think about this?"
Matthew Paulson presents 5 Ways to Keep Even More of Your Cash and Get More Food posted at American Consumer News.
Debt Freedom Fighter presents How Credit Rating Consequences Can Affect Your Life posted at Discover Debt Freedom!.
Money Answer Guy presents Credit Card Mistakes You Should Avoid posted at The Money Answer Guy.
DebbieDragon presents How to Recognize Offline and Online Money Scams posted at Debbie's Debt Advice.
Trisha Wagner presents How Teens and Family Budgets CAN Coexist | Debt Free Destiny posted at Debt Free Destiny.
Elizabeth presents A Son’s Epiphany and A Mother’s Lesson posted at Suburban Wife's Daily Dollar Diary, saying, "A son has his first financial epiphany and a mother learns a lesson about letting go."
Silicon Valley Blogger presents Help Your Kids Get Rich: Invest Early posted at The Digerati Life.
The Smarter Wallet presents Create Your Family Holiday Traditions and Save Money! posted at The Smarter Wallet.
Family Health and WellnessHueina Su presents Celebrate National Family Caregivers Month posted at Intensive Care for the Nurturer's Soul, saying, "November is the National Family Caregivers Month, proclaimed by the President of the United States of America. As a life coach working with medical professionals and other Nurturers, I see the Self-Care Deficiency Syndrome reaching epidemic proportion. To avoid burnout, caregivers need to practice Intensive Self-Care, and I'm listing some great resources for them here."
Donald Latumahina presents 9 Tips to Live an Abundant Life posted at Life Optimizer.
freefrombroke presents 6 Ways Eating Out Less Has Made Our Family Better posted at Free From Broke, saying, "Eating at home have proved to have many benefits to our family."
Carole Fogarty presents 14 Funky Ways To Calm Your Nerves Consistently: posted at THE HEALTHY LIVING LOUNGE, saying, "Do yourself a favor and add more deliberate moments of relaxation and deep rest into your day. This article is a reminder of the many ways you can put yourself first more often and soothe your nerves consistently. You can also tell where my focus is at the moment ……. nourishing my nervous system."
Patricia Turner presents Top 50 Green Technology Blogs posted at Green Web Hosting Blog.
Family HumorAahz presents Dad Gets Girly With Sparkly Nail Polish posted at Philaahzophy, saying, "Who taught YOU to paint your nails?"
Loren Christie presents Consequences Are Very Not Fun posted at Dude, Where Am , saying, "Raising small children is the most comical time of your life. Don't adopt a beagle."
Riley presents The Post of Christmas Past posted at All Rileyed Up.
Family Relationships and Self-Improvementmakingthishome presents Revealing a Few Secrets You Didn?t Know posted at Making This Home, saying, "Here's a salute to my translator to share."
Nards presents Song of the day: Can You Feel The Love Tonight? - Elton John posted at Nardeeisms.
Laurie Bluedorn presents Reminder about the Pie Auction/Barn Dance Fund Raiser for Greg Wallace posted at Laurie Bluedorn.
Jennifer in OR presents Sleepover with an 84 year old friend posted at Diary of 1.
Family Spirituality/Belief/WorshipWendy Rae presents Raising Spiritual Children posted at Spiritual Life Design.
Family TravelShannon Hurst Lane presents Family Holiday Fun in Branson posted at Traveling Mamas.
Matthew Paulson presents Traveling to Florida’s Space Coast » The Travel Advocate posted at The Travel Advocate.
Parenting Tips and AdviceJoe presents Kids GPS Phone: A Brief Introduction posted at GPS Tracking Watches, saying, "Cell phones have made their way into even the smallest hands in our families. Now these kids cell phones are coming equipped with GPS technology as cellular providers seek to attract more parents to buying these types of plans. This post attempts to educate consumers on what makes this technology work."
Khan presents Working Parents and Children | Effects - Problems posted at Higher Education and Career Blog, saying, "Millions of parents struggle each year to balance career and childcare. Fortunately, more options exist for working parents than ever before. If you want to find a solution that satisfies your family and your employer, read on."
Thank you all for participating in and supporting this edition of the Carnival!
Next week, the very special Thankfulness Edition of the Carnival will be hosted by Hopeful Spirit at On the Horizon. If you would like to participate in next week's edition of the Carnival, click here to submit the link to and relevant information about your posts. Note that for the Thankfulness Edition, two posts per blog will be accepted, so long as at least one of the posts focuses upon Thanksgiving, gratitude, celebrating one's blessings or a similar theme. If you have questions, be sure to review the Carnival guidelines before submitting your posts.
Would you like the Carnival to pay a visit to your site? Check out the hosting schedule, select a date, and then drop a line advising what week you would like to host.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Share your holiday with us! Send submissions to Blog Carnival.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Obama considers Robert F. Kennedy to head up the EPA. Imagine, an environmental activist someone who CARES about the environment heading up an agency named "Environmental Protection" Agency. It's just so ... logical. So right. Maybe this will mean reversal of the recent CAFO rule that allows a feedlot to pretty much "self-regulate" with regard to pollution and emissions. Among other atrocities of the last eight years ... here, here, here. A positive sign is the announced intent of the Obama administration to immediately reverse many of the Bush administration's anti-environment policies (among others).
A different kind of stimulus package is put forward. I'm a big advocate of food justice, so when I read that Obama's plan would extend food stamps and unemployment benefits, I can see how this measure would help the people who were hurt most in the "Trickle Down" where none of the obscene profits trickled, but, boy, the problems sure came down like a flood.
The other piece is using the money to help create jobs. Kind of makes sense, huh? More jobs, less unemployment. A lot more than sending us all a check (even the wealthy) so we can go out and buy $600 worth of stuff MADE IN CHINA.
I know, I know, Christmas is coming and that money would have helped. Still, I'd rather know people have a roof over their heads, even if it means I have less under my tree. Call me a socialist if you will, but even the Grinch figured out that Christmas doesn't come from the store. We can, too.
As far as the new administration hearing the call for change, well, apparently Obama has read the open letter to the "Farmer-in-Chief" written by Michael Pollan. Cool.
Wow. It's nice to post good thoughts. I hope there's more where this came from!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Want a sure fire way to fail at entertaining? C'mon over to my house for a lesson. First, you don't bother to dress for the occasion. Flannel shirts are okay. Maybe, you don't even have time to shower. No problem.
Don't set the table. When you do, use mixed and matched plates from three different sets. Call it eclectic.
When you ask your guests if they would like something to drink, list the options available. When they choose, give them instructions on where they can help themselves to it.
Drink lots of wine. Ignore silly low carb diets.
Ready for the best part?
MAKE THEM HELP COOK.
SERVE BRUSSELS SPROUTS TO THEIR KIDS. AND LOTS OF VEGETABLES.
If they come back again, then you know they are friends you want to keep.
Actually, our guests did enjoy helping with an annual ravioli fest. It's a lot of work, home made ravioli, so we usually do this as an "interactive dinner." Yep, hands on for the guests, too. The kids actually loved this, especially using the pasta roller and the ravioli mold.
A few tips if you plan on hosting a similar, uh, event.
- Have the pasta dough ready, it needs to rest a half hour before rolling.
- Have the fillings ready and the tools and a clean work surface prepared.
- Put out easy snacks so guests can take a break and have a quick bite until dinner.
- Serve alcohol to the adults.
- Don't worry about the mess, or if things aren't perfect.
- It's about preparing a meal together and having fun.
- Have a one-pot dinner course in the oven and soup for a first course ready. This helps keep all the activity centered on just the one dish to prepare together and a quick sauce for it.
- If you serve any other sides, keep them simple to prepare, or prepared in advance.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts
1 lb. Brussels Sprouts, quartered
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 lb. bacon, diced
1 large shallot, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
3 oz. Pecorino Romano shavings
1/4 cup pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, roast setting, if you have convection oven, or 400 degrees for a regular oven.
Toss the sprouts with olive oil and balsamic. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for about 15-20 minutes until they start to show some golden brown (the balsamic will make it harder to tell what's roasted and what's vinegar). Go for lots of golden brown, you may have to stir once during roasting. When the sprouts are about two minutes away from done, add the pine nuts to toast them. Remove from oven and place on a platter when done.
While the sprouts are getting crispy, cook the bacon in a skillet until almost done. Pour off all but one tbsp. of the grease. Add the shallot and finish cooking the bacon and shallot until browned and done. Remove from stove, whisk in olive oil and red wine vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing over the sprouts. Top with the shavings of Pecorino. Sit back and watch perceptions of Brussels Sprouts (including my own) shift.
Chestnut Apple Ravioli
6 oz. Roasted and Peeled Chestnuts
8 oz. Marscapone
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 tbsp. chopped sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 recipe pasta dough (I use the recipe in Lidia Bastianich's cookbooks), or you can use wonton wrappers if you don't want to make the dough.
egg wash for sealing ravioli (egg whites, whisked)
If you are roasting the chestnuts yourself, cut a large "x" in each one, place on a baking sheet. Cover with foil and roast at 375 for about 40 minutes. Peel the chestnuts while still warm. Or, best of all, have your spouse do this part!
Saute 1/4 of the bacon in a skillet until halfway cooked, pour off all but a tablespoon of grease. Add half the diced apple and the onion and cook until bacon is crisp and the apple and onion are golden. Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor. Add the chestnuts, nutmeg and the marscapone. Salt and pepper to taste (pinch). Pulse until it forms a paste and is well combined.
Fill the ravioli (we used a ravioli mold, this is great), using the egg wash to seal the dough. About 1-2 tsp. filling for each. Set the ravioli on a baking sheet with floured parchment.
Make the sauce, heat a skillet, cook the remaining bacon until half done, pour off all but one tablespoon of grease, add the other half of the diced apple and sage. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water for about three minutes, or until each ravioli floats up to the top. Sprinkle the "sauce" on the ravioli and serve. Goes great with prosecco.
Ignore the kitchen full of dishes until after dinner. Don't make guests help clean up. You have to be somewhat of a hostess, after all.
Monday, November 10, 2008
"I'm just watching them to make sure they don't move."
"Okay, make sure they don't move into your mouth, deal?"
There are a few sacred recipes that I have hesitated to "recreate." As much as I love pumpkin (and have them lying around) you would think I would have gotten around to new recipes for old favorites. Perhaps it's the fear of disappointment, that the new recipe won't be as good. Or, really, that I am not that good if I can't make a better version.
When I was very young, my favorite cookie was not chocolate chip. My mom was not an enthusiastic cook, being the 70s and a working, single mom. Packaged foods were normal fare. But, every now and then, she would make these awesome cookies. Pumpkin with raisins. They were cakey, and moist, a bit spicy. I never had the recipe, and just now, some 35 years later, I am getting around to making a recipe of my own. I added a couple things like black strap molasses and an icing. I was not disappointed.
Pumpkin Molasses Cookies
1 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup black strap molasses (or regular)
3/4 brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pumpkin (I used homemade puree)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. mace (or nutmeg)
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
2-1/4 cup flour (use 1 tbsp. less if using canned pumpkin)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the dry ingredients flour, salt, baking powder, spices together in a separate bowl. Cream the butter, molasses, brown sugar, egg and vanilla together. Add the pumpkin. Stir in the dry ingredients until blended well, but avoid overmixing. I know, it's vague, but just don't beat the hell out of the batter. Fold in the raisins.
Spoon onto the cookie sheet and bake for about 12-14 minutes depending on your oven. Allow to cool and prepare glaze.
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbs. cream
1 tbs. melted butter
1/2 tsp. orange extract
Blend to glaze consistency. Drizzle over cooled cookies.
Now, the pumpkin pie (my other longstanding favorite) is still a work in progress, but I really like the version I worked on over the weekend.
Honey Five Spice Pumpkin Pie
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) Pumpkin or 15 oz. home made puree
1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Milk
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell or your own crust.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix the dry ingredients, sugar, salt, spices. Beat the eggs, stir in the honey and pumpkin. Stir in the dry ingredients. Slowly stir in the evaporated milk.
Pour into pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 and continue to bake for 45 minutes more. Cool and store in refrigerator. Serve with whipped cream.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
The Halloween candy has not even hit the bargain bin yet and already the shelves are going red and green. Wait a minute. Where's Thanksgiving?
You know, the holiday created around sharing our blessings with family and friends, cherishing what you have, not shopping for more? Oh yeah. That doesn't sell on the store shelves. And that is exactly why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. That, and it's a holiday with FOOD.I will be working on a new menu for this year, but below are my favorites that I made for the last couple Thanksgiving meals. I hope you and your family are blessed this holiday season.
Apple, Sausage and Sage Stuffing
Cauliflower, Chard and Leek Gratin
Basil-Orange Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potato and Aged Gouda Gratin with Sage and Thyme
Roasted Green Beans
Best Ever Real Green Bean Casserole
Vanilla-Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan-Brown Sugar Crust
Red-wine Caramel Apple Tart with Gorgonzola on a Walnut Crust
Roasted Fig and Pear Crumble
Fall Menu Side Dishes
Roasted Whole Pumpkin with Gruyere
Polenta Cakes with Sun-dried Tomato and Spinach
Collard Greens and Bacon
Caramelized Onion and Chard Saute
Carrot Orange Souffle
Honey Sage Sweet Potato Pasta
Delicata Squash with Red Rice, Cranberries and Pecans
Maple-Orange Sweet Potato Souffle
Fall Menu Main Courses
Pumpkin Gnocchi with Walnut Cream Sauce
Turkey and Noodles
Acorn Squash and Chicken Sausage Cassoulet
Apple-Sage Roasted Chicken
Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin, Lentil and Carrot Soup
Pumpkin White Cheddar Soup
Vegetable Soup, How to Make Broth-Based Soups
Cauliflower, Carrot and Greens Soup, How to Make Cream Soups
Fennel, Potato and Leek Soup
Carrot Soup with Coriander Two Ways
Maple-Sage Reduction Sauce
Brown Butter Sage Sauce