Friday, November 30, 2012

Squirrel Jerky

Well, I broke my own rule about nothing Christmas-y until December 1st.  But how could I have resisted perfectly pink poinsettias?  

I couldn't, I bought two!  So where do you stand on the whole you start your Christmas prep and start celebrating the second the Thanksgiving turkey is digested or do you like to wait until December?  

My motivation has been low as far as eating well and exercising goes.  Thank goodness for Tally, she keeps me honest and out walking every day.  I'm just back from the supermarket and the kitchen is fully stocked with fresh juice produce and clean veggies and protein for nutritious and delicious meals.  The emphasis for me this time of year and stay hydrated, healthy and energetic!  

I'm going to make a creamy carrot soup using my cauliflower trick adding in mini-meatballs flavored with lemon and parsley.  The meatballs will play double duty in Italian Wedding Soup with green and yellow string beans, baby zucchini and turnip greens.  I got the fixings for this little gem I found on Pinterest, Man Pleasing Chicken.  Doesn't that sound good?  I will let you know how it turns out.  

I'm missing Rob, he's been away for a week and won't be back until December 7th.  I have to remind myself how fortunate we are in so many ways so I don't get caught up in feeling sorry for myself when he's gone on these long stretches.  I have lots of things lined up to keep me busy, including a copy of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn that I borrowed from a friend.  

And of course, I have my girl to keep me company.  She was like a statue at the window so I had to see what caught her attention...

Squirrel having a snack.  Tally wishing that she could have a snack, too, perhaps some squirrel jerky!  My girl is fast, but she has yet to catch one of the little buggers.  

Happy Friday, have a fantastic weekend!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Weekend Fun

Another Thanksgiving weekend has come and gone.  I hope your celebrations were awesome!  As far as fun, food, family and friend time and relaxing at home, this one ranks very high on the list.  I really enjoyed every moment of it.

I worked on Thanksgiving Day so Rob was in charge of getting the turkey in the oven.  We did the high roast spatchcock method, here are some details.  Preheat the oven to 450 Fahrenheit, parchment-line a deep roasting pan (a two-piece broiler grill pan works really well for this) then fill the pan with dressing, potatoes or a combination of both and place the rack on top.

Our 13-pound turkey was from Trader Joe's and came brined.  I had cut out the back bone and broke the breast bone of the turkey the day before.  Here's a tutorial.  It's not particularly difficult, just a bit messy.  I placed a trash bag on the kitchen counter topped with a layer of paper towels as my work surface and this makes clean up a snap.  Place the turkey on top of the rack and brush it with melted butter.  

Place in the oven, making sure the bird is right in the middle of the oven.  90 minutes later, you'll have a perfectly cooked, moist and juicy bird with crisp as bacon skin.  

Set the turkey to rest, remove the rack and put the pan back in the oven to brown the top of the potatoes and dressing, about 30 minutes.


Perfecto! I did something different for the vegetable dish, I made a salad.  It added a light, fresh touch to the meal.  I roasted golden beets and served them on a bed baby super greens, added a few spiced pecans and a few bits of Gorgonzola cheese and served it with a maple Dijon lemon dressing.  New tradition!

Of course there was homemade cranberry orange dressing and shallot vermouth gravy.  And wine. The turkey was perhaps the best one to come from our kitchen.

Dessert was clementine chess tart.  This was the surprise hit of the day.  Chess pie contains eggs and dairy but is a bit richer than a custard style pie because you cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy before adding the eggs and dairy.  I flavored it with the zest and juice lemon and clementines.  Next time less sugar, more citrus.

After dinner I put together a gobbler cobbler with the leftovers to have for Sunday dinner and the rest of the turkey meat got shredded and put into the curry sauce to marinate overnight.  Friday brought the annual curry cook-off.  In addition to the turkey tikka masala, I made a contribution to the dessert table, my homage to the Twinkie.  Golden cake topped with a rich frosting similar to the famous cream filling.  Tasty!

Here I am ready to go.  My curry took second place and I was team captain of the winning trivia team.  Team Success Fist!  The winning curry was loaded with chunks of paneer cheese, and you just can't compete with cheese.  It's a fact.  A good time was had by all.

Saturday was just one of those perfect relaxing days.  And as relaxing days go, it's always an epic battle between Tally and me for the best seat in the house.  Mamma, I stole your spot!

We watched Moonrise Kingdom and Prometheus and had the first fire of the season.  Love sitting by a wood fire.  So cozy.

I've got the house cleaners coming in about a week for a deep clean before decking the halls of Shady Dame.  I loved that Thanksgiving fell early this year, it's going be lovely to have a week to just be before the merry winter festivities begin.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

That Time Again!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, are you excited and ready?  I just finished making the shopping list from the menu and I'm heading out tomorrow to the shops so I can do mise en place Tuesday.  I've already got some rich stock and some gorgeously golden schmaltz ready for making the gravy and stuffing.  

What's on your Thanksgiving menu this year?  We're doing high roasted butterflied turkey over a stuffing and golden potatoes with gravy, cranberries and a fall salad of roasted beets and squash with mixed greens and maple syrup Dijon dressing.  For dessert, clementine chess pie. I did the high roasted turkey for family dinner when I was up in Boston and it was amazing.  A 13 pound turkey cooked to juicy perfection in just 90 minutes, I hope I can replicate it for Rob! 

With the leftover turkey, I'll be making my Turkey Curry for the cook off on Friday.  We missed last year's and I'm ready to compete again!

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now.  I have Traditional English Christmas Cake baking in the oven.  Normally I would disavow all knowledge of Christmas until I enjoy Thanksgiving but the cake needs plenty of lead time so it can be fed daily with booze.  Mmmm, drunken fruit!

By the time Christmas rolls around the cake is as rich and boozy as your eccentric Aunt!  And speaking of booze, I've also got this going in the kitchen...

Brandy sweetened with sugar steeping with lots of ginger and orange peel and a plump, fresh vanilla bean.  It's a homemade version of Domaine de Canton.  I found the recipe at Serious Eats.  I brewed it yesterday, fished the vanilla bean out today per instructions and will let it steep one more day before straining and filtering.  I couldn't resist a small tipple (quality control, you know) when I fished the vanilla bean out and wow so tasty!  I'm going to use it for feeding the Christmas Cake.  I will keep you posted on the finished products.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mmmm Mmmm (better than Campbell's) Good!

I have graduated beyond using canned condensed soup in my cooking years ago but sometimes I still yearn for creamy dishes that seem only achievable with that thick glop of questionable origin.  I've been on a quest to replicate that creamy texture in comforting dishes without having to resort to canned condensed soup and keeping the dish healthy and even better, paleo/grain free friendly.  I've finally perfected the creamy deliciousness with (prepare to have your minds blown) CAULIFLOWER!

Now I know what you're thinking, that I've completely lost it, but stick with me on how this epiphany came about.  I had some leftover roast chicken, scallions and a head of cauliflower in the fridge.  Instead of just serving leftover meat with veg on the side for supper, I decided to try something different.  I transformed the cauliflower with just a few ingredients into this creamy, dreamy soup that tasted in no way like cauliflower. 

Rob had no idea there was cauliflower in the dish.  He said during dinner that the soup would make a great chicken pot pie filling.  And it did, best chicken pot pie ever.  And then I tried it again, adding mushrooms and whipping up the most delicious green bean casserole ever.  I served it at the family dinner at my sister's and no one knew it was made with cauliflower.

It's so easy, you must try it.

Creamy Dreamy Soup Base

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon butter or ghee
1 head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
2-4 cups chicken stock

Saute the onion and celery in the butter until the onion is golden, add the cauliflower and saute for a few minutes.  Season to taste.  Add 2 cups of stock, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until all the veggies are soft and tender.  Add contents of pot to a blender and puree until very creamy, adding more stock until you reach the thickness desired (more for soup, less for casseroles.)  Your taste buds will not believe your eyes!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Despite my best efforts, I returned home with a cold.  My sister was sick as a dog for a goodly portion of my visit so it was inevitable that I would get it.  I'll be brothing it up for the next couple of days as I'm due at work Monday morning and coughing and sneezing on elderly patients is never a good idea.  

I made it home safely but it was tough to leave.  I'm so happy to be with Rob and Tally, though I really look forward to the time when I have *all* my people together in the same place!  

Rob went to the supermarket to pick up a few things, I just don't feel up to it.  Laundry and unpacking can wait until next week.  I'll be here sniffling, trying to stay warm despite the pleasant weather.  I hope you all are enjoying November!