Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Entertain my mouth

The cranberry relish that I usually buy in the store is a lot cheaper when it's homemade and really easy, too. I decided to give it a food processing whir last night and it's marinating in the fridge right now. I had some last night (have to taste test it) and it was really good. I may have a touch more before I start work, just to see how it's coming along in the marinating process. In fact, I think it would be a great addition to a pot roast on dark rye sandwich for lunch.

I have heard all the talk, and seen the recipes for, brining meat, but I came across a new technique that I'm going to try tonight. Using kosher salt and spices, I'm going to salt the turkey. It's the same idea as brining without all the water. The salt brings the juices in the turkey to the surface so that when it bakes it stays moist without all the basting. After it's done, the turkey sits for 30 minutes before carving so the juices redistribute. I'll let you know how it goes.

On tonight's baking schedule are yams (for the sweet potato pecan pie), lemon meringue pie and carrot cake. I'm still not sure if I want to make muffins out of the carrot cake batter or a two-layer cake. Either way, the carrot cake gets a traditional cream cheese frosting. I also have to make shiitake mushroom caviar (caviar is Russian for any spread with minced vegetables, and you thought it just meant fish eggs) so that it has time for the flavors to develop.

Tomorrow's pretty easy. In the morning, I'll boil the potatoes for the mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and put together the butternut squash au gratin for the main side dishes. Guests will bring salads and sides and ham and the drinks are on me, a nice light white wine and a full bodied Merlot. There will also be fresh lemonade and water to drink and a few amuse bouches to whet the appetite before the main event. Friday is reserved for an intimate meal with one really good friend who has requested rye bread and mustard for his turkey sandwich. The rye bread I get, but I was expecting a request for Miracle Whip or mayo for the turkey sandwiches. I'm open to anything, like cranberry relish on pot roast sandwiches. I like trying new things, especially when it comes to food, unlike Beanie who is a traditionalist to her core.

When Beanie and I talked this morning and I mentioned my schedule, she said I was weird with all the gourmet food. I don't consider shiitake mushroom caviar or mashed potatoes with sour cream and roasted garlic gourmet, but someone for whom stuffed celery is gourmet, I'm sure it seems that way. She doesn't like Swiss cheese because it tastes nasty and she prefers ranch dressing while I finally found a recipe for authentic green goddess salad dressing that includes anchovies. I'm sure she wouldn't like to know what else is in it. At least, she approved the carrot cake. It's something she recognizes.

I've always been different than my siblings and I love trying new things, especially food, which is why I live in Colorado and they all live within 50 miles of Columbus, Ohio where they grew up. After all, life is too short and the world filled with new and different sensations and experiences and I still have a long way to go in trying them all. I may have to come back several more lifetimes to get them all in and revisit the ones I really liked. I consider cooking as stress reducing therapy while many other people consider it stressful. It takes all kinds of people to make a world.

In the meantime, enjoy this time with good friends, dear family and lots of foods, but pace yourself. There's a long weekend ahead and you don't have to eat everything during dinner tomorrow. Save a little something for a midnight snack, breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you do it right, you could have a feast every day for at least a week.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, November 24, 2008


The house smells like roasting garlic. It's for the hummus and baba ghanouj I'm making for hors d'ouevres. I'll bake pita bread tomorrow evening and then bake it again when I cut it up into triangles. I love cooking. I also realized I have some chocolate chips, 60% cacao bittersweet chips, and I think they would go very well in Tollhouse cookies, but I'll save those and bake them on Thursday. Nothing says holiday like something from the oven. I love this time of year.

Most of my local friends will get food baskets filled with homemade goodies for the holiday season. My mother is getting her favorite series, Forever Knight. I don't know why, but she has a thing for certain vampires and one werewolf (David Selby as Quentin Collins). For someone so straight laced, it just doesn't track, but there it is. She even had me learn to play Quentin's Theme on the piano when I was a kid. Talk about obsessions. My brother and sisters and I went in together to get all the DVDs for the series for Mom for Xmas and it doesn't matter that I mention it here since she doesn't have access to a computer. It was my idea because all she talks about is Forever Knight, she doesn't want to miss Nick Knight when it's on. Now she won't have to miss him. She can hole up in her room and watch him all the time.

If you detect a wee bit of the holiday spirit here, it isn't because of alcohol laden egg nog. I drink the occasional glass of wine, but the spirit is all me, generated by the colder temps and the endorphins pumping through my system from cooking and baking and basking in the aroma of home. I don't seem the like the domestic type, and in many ways I'm not, but when it comes to cooking and baking, just the idea of leafing through cookbooks and Gourmet or Food & Wine magazines makes me giddy with anticipation. It's the one little sliver of the shopping gene I do possess, grocery shopping. It's not unusual for me to get the urge to bake or put together a casserole or pot roast in the middle of the night and the aromas help me sleep when I eventually get to bed so that I dream of dancing sugar plums and feasting -- or noshing -- with friends and family.

The urge is building to go out and wander rows of live pine trees, inhale the scent and figure out how to get one home so I can bring out my boxes of ornament treasures, untangle the lights and invite some friends for a tree trimming party. This is the season of sharing food and fun, carols and conversations. Now that I have a place big enough and no guard waiting to pounce in the downstairs hall (no downstairs and no close neighbors watching through the blinds), I think a tree is definitely in order. After all, Mom and Dad brought all my ornaments and treasures with them the last time they visited together and it's time to let them out of their enameled boxes to hang from a live tree again. I feel a tree trimming party coming on.

Oh, and one more thing. I just signed a contract today for another book. I am not writing this one, but the authors requested the rights to use one of my pictures and posts in a book about feelings that will be out next year. I'll make sure you get a link to the book when it's published. From what I understand, the book will come out in several countries around the world at the same time. Not too shabby.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday planning

It's quiet tonight. The guy next door finally turned out the garage lights and went into his house. There are few cars whizzing by and the TV is silent.

It's the weekend before Thanksgiving and all through the house
not a creature is stirring, not even the mouse (he's dead).
The cupboards were filled with loving care
in hopes that friends will stop by and share.

I could go on, but I won't. Suffice it to say that I have one more trip to the grocery store for some last minute things and the rest of the week before the big day will be spent baking and cooking for the big day, buffet style of course. The RSVPs are in and there will be food, wine and guests. I've looked through cookbooks and searched with Google to find some different things to try like pumpkin creme brulee and sweet potato pudding. It isn't that I don't love the usual holiday favorites (baked beans, candied yams, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, etc.); I want to try something different, to shake up the old ant farm. There will, however, be mashed potatoes, but not the usual kind. Everything will be updated or take a trip down an old-fashioned lane (chestnut stuffing). There will, however, be sweet potato pecan pie with brandied cream for those interested in such things and in the Colorado Springs area. No food will be messengered or sent overnight to those who would like to but cannot be here. Sorry about that. It's a house rule.

There will be hors d'ouevres to snack on prior to the big dinner, so come early and plan to stay late. Food digests better over a long period of time. There will also be conversation, music and movies and there might be dancing for those so inclined. For those whose Thanksgiving schedules are full, there will be turkey sandwiches and leftovers served on Friday since I'm off work that day. Stop by any time, but call before you come to find out if there is any food left -- that is if you're only coming for the food.

In the meantime, enjoy the holiday. Eat slowly. Savor the company. Drive safely.

That is all. Disperse.