Thursday, November 29, 2012

Home for the Holidays

The thing is, I had a plan. I made a reduced guilt crockpot eggplant-zuchinni Parmesan. It had layers of crispy baked eggplant (and zuchinni), my grandma's delicious homemade sauce, and mozzarella cheese. It looked amazing. And then, as I drove home from work, I called my dear husband to ask him to put on some pasta, and heat up some extra sauce. Instead of 'dirtying another pot' he decided to simply dump all  the leftover sauce on top of  the bubbling, cheesy Parmesan in the crock pot. And so, while the meal still tasted good, it looked awful. Needless to say, I am not putting it up on this blog, and I didn't even take pictures-- it was too sad.

This morning, before I head off to work, I am starting, continuing, and finishing various Christmas projects. Paper garland for the tree. A fabric star or two. I found a beautiful book at the little consignment shop next door filled with pictures for a old fashioned countryside Christmas. Which is, of course, all I ever long for.

I cannot wait to start wrapping gifts. And I cannot wait to have a tree to put them under!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Turkey Soup + Christmas in Maine

Its going, to, I think, be a beautiful Christmas. I can feel it in my bones.

Yesterday, I put the turkey soup in the crock pot, took a windy run, then bundled up and headed out to begin Christmas-ing. I delved into the INSANE Black-Friday-Weekend sales at the Kittery outlets (no crowds, easy parking-- yes please!) and finished more than half my Christmas shopping. On the way home, I stopped at two tree-selling stands and bought some wreaths. I have been lusting for real garland (not the plastic stuff) for years but have never been able to justify spending the exorbitant (to me) amounts of money on it. For example-- two dollars a foot at the Christmas tree stand? It was beautiful-- but to cover the twenty feet I need for my porch, that's a casual forty dollars. I'd rather a new pair of shoes. 
   But there's good news! Reliably, Trader Joes had fresh garland for just over 6 dollars for twenty feet. Amazing. I'm going back to get more today.
More pictures to come. I found the ribbon at a thrift store-- it has an almost burlap-like texture to it, and I love the simplicity and old-fashionedness of a pretty ribbon tied to fresh greenery. Anyway. After the chill and fun of decorating outside, we retired into our cozy kitchen for a steaming bowl of Turkey-noodle soup. I have finally used the last of the turkey!
A rich broth filled with tender chunks of turkey, big juicy carrots, and bits of celery and onion-- you can't beat turkey noodle soup for a healthy, low calorie comfort meal. 
    I would have loved to make a homemade stock like I did last year out of the turkey carcass. But stock takes time, and time was something that was in short supply last week, and we had to throw out the carcass before I was able to get to it. Oh well. Once again, Traders Joes came to the rescue with their premade turkey broth. 

2 stalks of celery
1/2 white onion
4 cloves garlic
4 carrots
2 tbs turkey gravy (we had leftovers)
salt and pepper
herbs de provence (about 2 tsp)
2 48 oz boxes of Turkey broth
as much turkey as you desire (I had about a cup shredded)
about an 1/8 of a lb of spaghetti, broken up.

Start by chopping the onion, celery, and garlic. Saute this in a nonstick pan sprayed with a little olive oil until the onions are translucent. Put the veggies in the crock pot, (or just a regular pot) and add in the rest of the ingredients except the pasta. It's so easy it maybe shouldn't even be called a recipe...I had a ton of leftover carrots from Thanksgiving that were already cooked, and I used those. But raw ones will do just as well. Cook the soup on high, if using a crock pot, for about six hours. Add the pasta in an hour before eating if.

If you're doing it in a pot, simmer the soup for two hours and cook the pasta separate so it doesn't soak up all the broth. Add it in right before you serve it.
And there you have it. Just like that. 

Have a good Monday everyone.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving Thanks

After a several-day Thanksgiving hiatus, I am back. It was a lovely holiday, despite the catastrophe that happened to us on The Day when Nicks car hood flew up while driving 55 miles per hour and smashed his windshield to bits. spite of it, and the stress it caused...and the fact that we didn't have time to meet up with my dear reminded me (us) full force of all the things to be grateful for. Namely that we weren't a. dead, b. hurt, and c. separated.
   We ate large off of two full Thanksgiving feasts-- one on Thursday at my Aunts house, and one on Friday at Nicks parents house. It was full of warmth, good food, company, and laughter.
Here, although somewhat blurry, Nick displays what a zombie would do to a Turkey. The Walking Dead is on tonight. Thank goodness.

Meanwhile, we have TONS of leftovers. Still. Tonight is Turkey Noodle Soup night, while yesterday was Breakfast for Dinner night. After a long, wonderful day of teaching and a long Friend Run (for me), I didn't feel like cooking. Which is why we decided on the Brinner (the colloquial word for breakfast for dinner).

I made a Quick Frittata with the leftover sausage stuffing and it came out delicious. Paired with a slice of bacon, and some baked beans, it was a great meal. 

Its light, fluffy, cheesy, and actually quite filling, thanks to the stuffing. And it's a great way to use up some leftovers.

To start, put a pat of butter in the frying pan. Just enough to make sure the whole thing won't stick when you bake it. Then, add in however much stuffing you have and turn the heat on low. I had maybe 1 cup of stuffing. 
Then beat five eggs, salt, pepper, and about an 1/8 cup of 2 percent milk until its all frothed up. 
Pour this over the stuffing and turn the heat up to medium. Then, springle some cheese on top-- I used the rest of the left over cracker cheese from our Thanksgiving.
After the bottom has cooked, put it into a preheated 425 degree oven, and bake for about 10 minutes until the egg is set. Then broil it on high for 3 minutes, or until the top is browned and bubbling.

Let it cool for a few moments, and then dig in! 
Crisp on the top, fluffy in the middle-- it's  the best possible combination. Nick even put a little maple syrup on his, but I didn't get that crazy. So, if you need a Christmas Brunch dish, there you have it. 
Speaking of Christmas, today is the decorating day. I am strangely nervous, having never done it all by myself. I want it to be perfect for this, our first Christmas as husband and wife. But I don't really know what perfect is. Or, I do, and perfect is a 1680's wooden house with a gigantic fireplace and washed wooden walls, and dark, low beams, and since that is a pipe dream/ Sturbridge Village, I need to make due with what I have. For heavens sake.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Slim Turkey Tetrazzini

The best thing about Thanksgiving is the left overs. Anyway, I think so. Pie every day for a week? Don't mind if I do. 27 ways to use up Turkey? Lets get going.

As a child, my favorite left over dish (unsurprisingly) was Turkey Tetrazzini. It was special-- more special than even Turkey Stew, which I loved (and still do love) because it was covered in cheese and cream sauce. Two of my favorite things.

Of course, now, although I still do love cheese and cream sauce, its not something that I indulge in often, and its not something that I generally cook. I would always rather splurge on a cookie. Thank goodness its cookie day today...speaking of which...

So, yesterday I decided to kill several birds with one stone. Those birds being a. left over turkey, b. left over mashed Parmesan cauliflower, and c. left over cheese from the cheese platter. Put it all together and what have you got? Slim Turkey Tetrazzini!
Al dente spaghetti, turkey, and broccoli smothered and baked in a creamy sauce that uses no butter and very little milk and cheese, topped with grated parmesan and bread crumbs-- delicious, and far lighter than the traditional recipe. 

I truly just eye balled all of the indgredients-- I'll give some rough estimates, but you'd be better off coming up with your own sauce to pasta ratio.

1/2 pound spaghetti boiled for about 8 minutes
about 2 cups pureed cauliflower
about 1/3 cup milk
about two tablespoons cheddar cheese
about 4 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan (reserve two for topping)
about 3/4 cup shredded white turkey meat
1/2 cup frozen (or fresh) broccoli florets

Boil the spaghetti, strain, and put into the baking dish. I used my dutch oven. In a sauce pan, pour the pureed cauliflower, and add the milk, salt, pepper, oregano, cheddar cheese, and half the Parmesan cheese.
Stir, and simmer on a low heat until the cheese is melted.
If you're using frozen broccoli, thaw out in your microwave. If you, like myself, do not have one, then run it under hot water. Or think ahead and boil it with the pasta, which is what I should have done. Shred the left over turkey meat over the pasta.
Add in the broccoli, and pour the 'cream' sauce over the top. Use tongs or two forks and stir it all around to make sure the pasta is well coated. 
Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top, as well as the bread crumbs, and a dash of salt, pepper, and paprika.

If you, like me, make this dish in the  morning and cook it when you get home from work in the evening, pour a little bit of milk down the sides to make sure it doesn't dry out. Bake covered at 375 for about 20 minutes, then uncover it and bake for another ten, or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.
And that's that. You're all done, and it is delicious. 
At least I think so. But what do I know. Happy Thansgiving Eve. I am thankful for so many things. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Between yesterday and last night I must have slept a solid twenty hours. Nick was a good nurse when he got home from work and school, feeding me chicken soup, gatorade for my dehydrated self, and medicine. He propped me up on pillows, and we watched The Walking Dead Season 3 (YES!) and I felt better, and slept like a rock.

Today, I managed to take a slow paced three mile run with Lupe (who was also feeling better), make dinner, and go to work. Oh, and I started some Christmas shopping.

Here are a few pictures from the Thanksgiving Extravaganza of Cooking that I did on Sunday...
Indian pudding, and two apple tarts.

Boiling Sulfar Beans for the Boston Baked beans.
Lupe, guarding the baking tarts.
Apples for the tarts.

Boston Baked Crock Pot Beans.

finally, a perfect pie crust.
The Big Boy.
 Tomorrow I'll post up my first Leftover dinner. Slim-Turkey Tetrazzini. For now, enjoy your Tuesday Evening, and gear up for the long weekend.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Apple-pork Sweet Potato Bake

Last night we had a thanksgiving celebration here with friends. I was up early for a run, and saw a beautiful, enormous, antlered buck cross my path-- amazing. I was on my feet for the rest of the day baking, cooking, cleaning-- it was such fun but this morning I awoke feeling so sick I almost cried. Actually I did cry-- who am I kidding. I have a bad habit of running myself ragged-- I am horrible at resting, and can always think of things I need to do. Exercising, cleaning, running errands, cooking, and of course, working. Every now and then my body shuts down in protest. Ironically, Lupe is also throwing up today. The two of us are lying in bed, wishing there was someone here to make us chicken noodle soup and bring us warm mugs of tea. Instead, we are just trying not to pity ourselves.

A few nights ago, we had this delicious dinner. I wish it were more of  photogenic dish-- but believe me, it is so tasty. Tender, savory pork chops dusted with cinnamon, over brown sugar sweet potato's topped with juicy apples. Amazing.
It is also an incredibly quick and easy dish. It only  takes four steps.

First, peel and slice 3 sweet potatoes.
Layer them on the bottom of the crock pot, and dust with a little salt and pepper and one teaspoon of brown sugar.
Next, thinly slice half an onion and layer over the potatoes. 

Then, dust three pork chops with some cinnamon, salt, paprika and pepper, and cook them in a frying pan till they are slightly browned but not at all cooked through.
Layer the pork chops over the onions, and core and slice two apples. These make up the final layer.
Top with another teaspoon of brown sugar, two tablespoons of orange juice, and a dash or two of cinnamon, and put the lid on. 
Cook it on low for about 6 hours, and then dish it up and revel in the savory sweet comfort. THE BEST fall/winter dinner I think. We'll certainly be having it again. 

Now I'm thoroughly exhausted from posting this, and am going to take yet another nap. Lupe is curled up against me and snoring peacefully. Whoever sends over the chicken noodle soup first gets an award. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Things I am Enjoying

I have been BUSY with work, and getting ready for holiday parties. I have a recipe that is coming. But in the mean time...

I am enjoying

1. Egg nog in my coffee.
2. Long runs with Lupe.
3.Holiday cooking
4. The bare trees, and the leave lines forest paths.
5. Apple-sweet potato- pork bake (recipe to come)
6. Friends.
7. My hilarious husband.

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Eight years ago, this month, my mother died. That sounds to me simultaneously so incredibly long ago, and yet not so very far back. Eight years. For some people, eight years ago they were only a little child. For others, eight years ago, nothing was too different. For me, eight years ago I was seventeen. My sister was twelve, and my brother was twenty.

My mother was beautiful. When I was a little girl, I, in fact, thought she was the most beautiful woman in the entire world. And now, I am almost sure of it. She was an artist, and she made things beautiful. She was a perfectionist, and nothing she did was ever good enough. She had lovely hands-- slim, soft, and always smelling of lavender. My hands are rough, calloused, and sinew-y from playing the piano, and washing dishes, and biting my nails. 
My mother used to make the animals talk. She used to do little dance moves as she walked around the house. She used to say she wished she could have been a famous tap dancer-- that she never should have stopped dancing just because she felt too tall. She told me to stand up straight. To put my shoulders back, and to walk with my toes pointed forward. 
She drew gorgeous pictures with her pencil-- spending hours upon hours working on tiny details-- the grains of sand. The soft curve of a little girls face. She would concentrate completely, and I would be in awe, absolute awe, of what she could create.
She loved New England. She loved the autumn, the change of seasons, the snow in winter, the crisp leaves in fall, the hot steamy summers on the beach. She missed her home deeply and wholly when we were children, growing up in Thailand. But she made everywhere that we were into a true home. She had the touch of home all about her.
But most of all, she was brave. Even after she had a stroke, and lost feeling on the right side of her body, she worked diligently, and constantly to get it back-- to get herself back. She didn't ever, for a moment, stop fighting for her family. She still drew beautiful pictures, even though the stroke made it difficult and frustrating for her to control the pencil, she didn't give up.
She was a wonderful woman. I don't know what she would think of me now. Now that I am grown up. As old as she was when she had a one year old son...I don't know if she would recognize me, even, at first. But of course she would. I imagine a mother would know her child anywhere, no matter what. 

The holidays never get easier without her, even as they become more normal as the years rush by. The missing is no longer a tangible pain. Just a quiet, gentl remembrance. And a love that grows ever stronger with time.