Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

We're in our last moments of the Thanksgiving weekend and I want to hold onto the good feelings. Mom and I have our own Thanksgiving tradition. Each year we're together, we sit down and watch an old musical. I love the old musicals and was really looking forward to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or The King and I. It doesn't matter how many times I see these movies, I always enjoy them.

I was really hoping Netflix had some of these available via streaming because I've also had a song or two from Summer Stock running through my head lately. But alas, you actually have to reserve the DVDs and wait for them to be mailed. Normally that wouldn't be an issue and if I'd known earlier we would be spending the holiday at home I could have set it all up. But, since I couldn't watch the oldies I decided to catch up on missed episodes of Glee. It's still musical and I enjoy it, but it's just not the same.

Anyhow, here's the recipe for the sweet potato dish I made instead of the more traditional gooey marshmallow covered dish. It was super easy, and Scoob really liked it. I thought the herb flavor was a bit over powering, so I might cut back on that ingredient if I make this again. Or, maybe I just bought some really strong thyme.

Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

Sweet Potatoes with Pecans
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes

    2½ lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    ½ cup grated Parmesan
    1 tsp Kosher salt
    ¼ tsp black pepper
    ¾ cup chopped pecans
    ¼ cup light brown sugar
    2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
    pinch of cayenne pepper

  1. Heat oven to 375°. Toss sweet potatoes, with 2 Tbsps oil, Parmesan, salt, pepper in a large bowl and transfer to a 2½–3 quart baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake 45–50 minutes; until the potatoes are tender.
  2. While that is baking, combine the pecans, brown sugar, thyme, cayenne, and the remaining Tbsp of oil in a small bowl.
  3. Once tender, remove foil from the baking dish and sprinkle the pecan mixture over the potatoes. Continue to bake, uncovered, until the pecans are toasted, about 10–12 minutes.

I got this (and the cranberry compote) recipe from the Nov. 2010 issue of Real Simple magazine. By not oiling the baking dish (there's plenty of oil already, sticking was not a problem) and eliminating additional salt and pepper from the pecan mixture, I've cut down slightly on the amount of oil and salt used in the original recipe, but otherwise it remains the same.

Friday, November 26, 2010

T: Take 2

While everyone else is out there battling the crowds trying to score a doorbuster deal and making  serious headway on their Holiday shopping, I'm still celebrating Thanksgiving. I have trouble moving on from Thanksgiving; come to think of it, I have trouble moving after Thanksgiving. (Especially after our day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast.) Now, assuming I could move and that I could work up the energy required to shoehorn myself into my fat jeans, the last thing I would want to do is ruin the holiday buzz by joining the hordes in a shopping frenzy.

Though, truth be told, I am starting to panic a bit about Christmas. Last I heard, dad, mom, and sis were coming to our house for the holiday and I've been getting all geared up for that—rearranging some furniture, looking into nearby hotels, trying out new recipes, and beginning to buy stocking stuffers. Well, after talking with my sis last night, it now sounds like the plan is to have Christmas at a cousin's house. Which is fine—just keep me in the loop, people!

Now that being the host house is off my plate (at least for the next week), I've realized that aside from the few stocking stuffers, I've done zip in the shopping department. Heck, I don't even know what people want! So yeah, the panic is beginning to creep in.

So, we went out for a pancake breakfast while we were in North Carolina and Scoob made a comment. He said "How come you don't make pancakes anymore?" You see, when we first moved in together I would make pancakes from scratch every Sunday morning. I had to remind him that I was still in college then so I had a lot more free time during the week leaving me with a lot more energy on the weekends. And I had to remind him that when we decided to eat healthier, pancakes became a once in a while treat instead of a regular occurrence. Anyhow, I surprised him with a pancake breakfast this morning with real maple syrup.

If you look closely, a couple of you may recognize some things in this photo.
Just keeping you close even when you're not close.

Our Thanksgiving h'ordeuvres—cheddar pepper palmiers.
Just looking at them made me happy. Eating them made me happier.

The cranberry and brandy compote. Very tasty and if I hadn't already bought
the maple syrup I would have used it on my pancakes this morning!

A new twist on holiday sweet potatoes. They were good, and much healthier than their marshmallow encrusted cousins. Though I've found another sweet potato recipe I'd like to try as well.

And the turkey. Scoob liked it, but turkey is just turkey to me and since I didn't make potatoes, I didn't bother with gravy which might have made me like the bird better.

We'll do a re-run of Thanksgiving tonight for dinner and try to stretch out the holiday buzz. Hopefully we won't relive the food coma.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! The kitchen flurry has begun and I think I'm about to put the turkey in the oven. That is, just as soon as I figure out how to cook a turkey breast as opposed to the whole turkey. Since it's just the two of us and we've been cutting back on our meat consumption, it just didn't make sense to cook a whole bird.

Oh, and can I tell you something? A little bit goes a long way when it comes to brandy. That's right. I did perform that quality check on the brandy last night, and whoa. Thankfully, I managed to get the table set up for today before it went straight to my head.

Okay, let me tell you something else. White, white table cloth + cats = never a good idea. The minute I took that cloth out of its protective wrapper I saw the cat hair. I swear, Hermione must have placed an accio spell on that thing. (For you non-Harry Potter people.) And ironing it only seemed to attract more hair. I'm thinking I need to add mini lint-rollers next to the forks in our place settings. I'll have some turkey with a side of hairball, please.

Anyhow, I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Now, I'd better go figure out how to cook that turkey.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

T Minus 1

Oh. My. God. Y'all. Thanksgiving is tomorrow!We were supposed to drive up to Oregon today to spend the holiday with mom, but she hasn't been feeling well and with the severe weather she wanted us to stay home, stay warm, stay safe, and come visit some other time. We made this decision Monday evening, which left me 2 whole days to plan a menu, shop, and prep. It's 7:00 on Turkey Eve and I haven't started prepping yet, but the menu and shopping are finished. Mostly.

I did the shopping on my way home from work last night. It took forever to find the pastry puffs and when I did finally find them there was only one left way, way in the back of the freezer case. I did my best to act all cute, charming, and chatty like my sis as I approached the nearest tall person to reach it for me. I also bought some brandy. Blackberry brandy, for a cranberry compote. Of course the recipe calls for straight bourbon and silly me thought brandy was in the whiskey/whisky/scotch/bourbon family. Whiskey and I do not get along and blackberry sounded nummy, so maybe it is a good thing I got the brandy instead.

But dudes, grocery stores don't carry small bottles—I only need a small amount. I suppose I'll just have to find something to do with the leftover brandy. Scoob seems to be coming down with a cold and has a nagging cough. I'm thinking I'll make him a hot toddy. Yeah, that's if I haven't drank it all by dinner. Heh. I'm not going to discuss the entire contents of my grocery cart, you'll just have to trust me when I say we're having more than pastry puffs and brandy for dinner. I also bought wine.

Among the many, many things I am thankful for are that I am able to save money so that surprise expenses (like a last minute Thanksgiving dinner) don't blow the household budget, that I've learned to be flexible and not completely stress while handling the curves when life changes the plan, and that over the years I've learned to cook so I know I can pull it off.

I'm also thankful for the technology that allows me to stay in touch with distant family and friends, whether that's through this blog, on the phone, through facebook, via twitter, or whatever. I really am thankful for that, and yet it feels so, I don't know, superficial? I mean when I think about the day-to-day challenges people around the world have to deal with, being thankful for facebook seems pretty weak.

Really there are thousands of things I am thankful for. Far too many to count. But it is important to at least try to count them so that they're not taken for granted. I'm thankful that Scoob and I have stable jobs. I'm thankful for having supportive family and friends in my life. I'm thankful to live in the United States. No matter how crazy, unjust, and just plain loopy things can get, I'll always be thankful that I was fortunate enough to be born here. Anyhow, the list goes on.

Oh hey. I forgot to tell you about our airport adventures on our trip. So guess who tried to get a pocketknife through airport security? Or rather, guess who DID get a pocketknife through airport security? If you said Scoob, you'd be wrong. It was me. I completely forgot I'd stashed my pocketknife in my camera case after our Lava Beds trip last July and I breezed right through security at Oakland airport. But the Raleigh airport security caught it on the return  trip. It took 3 bag searches and 4 x-rays to finally find it, but by golly, find it they did!

And you know what, the TSA guy was totally nice the entire time and even helped me set up a way to ship it to myself. Dad gave me that pocketknife last Christmas, so I didn't want to just leave it behind. Now, had TSA Oakland actually caught the pocketknife, I'm pretty sure I would have been strip searched and I'd probably be blogging at you from federal jail begging someone to post bail.

Anyhoodle, I should probably get my hiney in the kitchen and start some of that prep for tomorrow. I think I'll start with a quality check on that brandy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Well, I Tried

I tried to blog at you while we were out of town last week. Really I did. But between DWTS hoopla (our friends have an addiction, and now I may have one too) and Scoob hogging the laptop because he was on a working vacation, I didn't do too well. Besides Scoob working Tuesday through Thursday, we still had a great time.

The only real downside was the trip home, partly because we didn't want to leave, and partly because Thanksgiving travel has started and there were a lot of children on our return flight between Kansas City and Oakland. Though, honestly, of the 30 or so kids on the plane, only one was particularly problematic. Problematic as in he didn't stop screaming for the entire 4 hour flight. Little dude's face was so red I was actually scared for him.

Oh yeah, guess where little dude was sitting—not directly behind us (thank god), but in that row across the aisle. Still too close for comfort. Let me tell ya', I was counting the seconds to 10,000 feet so I could get my iPhone out, jam the buds in my ears, and crank some tunes. And his twin sister was just so calm and relaxed, coloring in her coloring book next to him the whole flight. I felt so bad for his parents. I tried to smile when I caught the mom's eyes, but I'm sure she just saw one more person glaring at her. There was a resounding cheer when the plane touched down in Oakland; I'm sure his parents were just as happy as everyone else to put an end to that experience.

Anyhow, our first morning in North Carolina was breakfast at The Old Granary Restaurant in Fearrington Village. Unless you have a gluten allergy, I don't care what kind of diet you're on—you must have a least one biscuit from the biscuit basket. After breakfast we went next door to McIntyre's Books. I may have found a new favorite bookstore. Well, second favorite. I don't think any bookstore could replace Powell's as my favorite.

At any rate, this is what a bookstore should be—locally owned, have personality, and staffed with friendly people who love to read. Not at all like the sterilized experience of going into a B&N or Borders where you know any book with prominent placement wasn't put there because someone on staff actually read it or liked it, but because the publisher paid a handsome fee to have the book placed there. Almost every book out on a table at McIntyre's had a hand-written note from a staff member attached to it.  Anyhow. Great bookstore. Great books. Support your local independent bookstores.

After that, the week was mostly a blur. But amazingly, it was a blur of golds and reds and oranges and browns. By some fluke, the weather had been mild for several weeks before we got there, so we also caught the end of the fall foliage season. Gorgeous. And we wrapped up the week by going to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 on Friday afternoon.

Anyhoodle, we're home now, and believe it or not, I'm caught up on laundry. And I woke up at 5:30 this morning. Without an alarm. I know. What is this world coming to?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Woe is My Toes

So hey, remember the shoes I said I was wearing the most? Yeah, so I'm about to swear off of them. Scoob has started painting his models again. (He calls them models; I call them figurines. Whatevah. I guess it just sounds more manly his way.)

Actually we've done a bit of furniture rearranging so he has a designated space for this activity.  He used to do this in the summers out on the patio, but then he'd come inside for something and forget to go back out again, which meant he also would forget to pick up his stuff. So I'm happy to have a corner set aside for his "models" if it means I don't have to deal with the detritus in other areas of the house.

Anyhow, Scoob asked me to go to an art supply store near my office to pick up some matte varnish for acrylics. I set out to do that on my lunch break thinking, "Sure, I can do that. It's just a couple blocks over at the end of the street." Well, woe to the me, y'all. It was half a mile down, and half a mile back. And guess which shoes I was wearing today. Oy!

By the time I got to the store (and discovered they had a more than ample parking lot) I could feel the balls of my feet screaming at me to just stop. For the love of God, please stop walking! Then there was the squinchy feeling—not quite the squishy blister feeling, but that pinchy/squeaky/almost squishy feeling that says, Hello, I'm going to be a blister if you don't STOP WALKING THIS VERY INSTANT!

Did I stop? Hell no. I roamed the aisles looking for what it was that Scoob needed. It's a darn good thing I told him to send it to me in an email (I love my iPhone), otherwise I would have picked up the first matte varnish I spotted (which was for oils, not acrylics). And that just wouldn't do. That would have meant doing this again tomorrow. No. Thank. You.

Then I had to walk back to the office. Which turned into limping. And devolved to shuffling. I had to fight the fierce urge to stick out my thumb and hitch a ride for that last block.

Anyhow, I'm still at work. With my shoes off. Hoping I don't have to move from this chair for the rest of the day because I'll go barefoot if I have to, ragged toenails, chipped paint, calloused heels, and all. Wishing I had a pair of socks to at least hide my scary feet and not quite seem so Oakie. A few folks do regularly shuffle around the office in their socks, so it wouldn't seem quite so out of place. (Hello. Berkeley!)

Also wondering if I really need to eat that frozen entree I brought for lunch. I may just stick it under my desk and rest my feet on it.

I don't think I'll be running my own errands I had planned for after work tonight. I won't be hobbling them either. The things we do for art. And love.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Roasted Garlicy Cauliflower

Growing up, the only way mom could get me to even consider eating cauliflower was when it was steamed to almost complete softness and then slathered in some kind of cheese substance. I've never tried to replicate this myself. Cauliflower was never one of those "must have" vegetables for me. Not like, say, green beans are.

As I got older I found I liked cauliflower raw. But still, it's not something I go out of my way for.

But this, dear friends, this is the most glorious cauliflower I've ever eaten. I don't have a picture for this one. Or maybe I took one at some point and just decided it didn't look good. But trust me, it is delicious. When the weather is cool enough for oven cooking, I make sure I always have a head of cauliflower in the fridge. If I don't, I swear I'm like a cauliflower junkie—I start to get anxious about where I can get some and when I can get my next cauliflower fix.

Roasted Garlicy Cauliflower
Total time: 35 minutes

    1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    4 cloves of garlic, minced
    salt and pepper to taste
    ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat oven to 450°. Toss cauliflower, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl until thoroughly coated with oil and place in 9 x 13 baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the Parmesan cheese and roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Stir the cauliflower, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and continue roasting for 10 minutes.
  3. Flip on the broiler for 3–5 minutes, until golden brown on top.

I love that the ingredient list is small and it takes almost nothing in prep time. Make sure you get the bits that stick to the pan… mmmmmm.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Acorn Squash and Tomatoes

So I lied. Again. I seem to do that a lot with y'all. It seems the book that came across my desk last Friday was not the last one. I forgot we'd had a problem with the first set of printer proofs for Germany. Turns out the gal who sent the files to the printer sent the original uncorrected files by mistake, and somehow in the mix up, the corrected files were lost. So we had to redo that book again from scratch. Yeah. So NOW the final fall book has crossed my desk. 14 down and 2 to go!

Ohh, and one of my coworkers gave me a nice compliment on my hair today—he said it looked sassy. That's probably the first time anyone has used that word to describe me when not referring to my mouth. Sassy!

People, I am so, so, so behind in posting recipes, so these won't necessarily be coming up in chronological order. That said, I made this for the second time this past Saturday night. It's one of my new favorites—ranking right up there with the roasted garlic cauliflower goodness that I've been making at least once a week ever since the weather became cool enough to turn the oven on.

I just scrolled through my logs and it seems I’ve never posted that cauliflower recipe, so I guess that one will have to be next. But first, Acorn Squash and Tomato goodness!

Roasted Acorn Squash and Tomatoes with Tilapia

Roasted Acorn Squash with Tomatoes
Total time: 40 minutes

    1 small acorn squash (about 1½ lbs.)—halved, seeded, and cut into ¼ inch slices
    1 pint grape or pearl tomatoes, halved
    4 cloves of garlic, sliced
    3 Tbsp olive oil
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Heat oven to 425°. Toss squash, tomatoes, and garlic with the oil, salt, and pepper and place in 9 x 13 baking dish. Roast until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

I love that this is so super easy and uses seasonal squash. And I love that I don't have to peel this squash like I do with some butternut squash recipes. The first time I made this, I served it with a quick pan-fried tilapia seasoned with salt, pepper, and coriander (pictured), which was nummy. When I took left overs for lunch, I had it with almond rice pilaf instead of the fish and loved it. And that's how I made it for Saturday night's dinner, too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shoe Porn

It’s wet, wet, wet today. Which is nice, you know, because it is November. But it is a big change from the two 80° days we had last week. Those were entirely unexpected, because, yeah, November! All my shorts and tank tops are packed away and the fans have been put back in the garage and I seriously debated getting everything out again.

I did panic a bit when the cooler weather started to show. I couldn't find any of my long sleeved shirts and sweaters and thought I was going to have to do some serious shopping. I was crushed I tell you. But then I remembered that we had started packing up the house last spring with every intention of moving before summer was over and yes, I had packed away all my cool weather clothes. So I've dug those out, not that it stopped me from shopping. Heh.

So I've recently acquired a new plushy sweater jacket, a few layering tops, a nice deep green jacket, and a new pair of jeans that I just picked up from being hemmed. And what with the new hair cut and all, I'm feeling fairly put together lately.

Anyhow, I've been meaning to share pictures from my shoe shopping escapade back in September. Or maybe it was early October. Who knows. But it's shoes! I went in looking for a particular pair of shoes, I wanted to replace this pink pair (which I pretty well thrashed over the summer) but apparently that style was from two season ago, so then I was forced to browse…

So first I found this similarly styled pair also from Rocket Dog

But I didn't want them to be lonely, so I bought a second pair.

Then I thought, I'd better get a different pair for diversity's sake, because I don't want my shoes to grow up to be bigots. This is my sporty pair. Title IX and girl power and all that.

This pair had a chunky kiss-ass look. I actually wear these the most.

And there's this pair. I thought they looked so sophisticated and classy. I have no excuse for buying these, and I haven't worn them yet. I even went to return them, but then left the store with them in-hand again. I'll cop to it, this pair was a purely emotional purchase.

Scoob's face was priceless when pair 5 landed on the stack. I don't think he'd ever seen anything like it before, at least not from me. Heh. Ugh, when did I become such a girl?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The End Is Near

The end is finally in sight on this project at work. So what was originally only supposed to suck the life out of my September also engulfed October and is hanging around like that house guest that just. won't. leave. into November. Printer proofs for the big fall season book (1200+ pages) crossed my desk last night and now I just have the 2 winter books to get through. I sure hope they come in next week because folks, I'm outta here (at least outta the office) for the second half of the month—I've got vacation and personal time to burn through before the end of the year, and by golly, I'ma gonna burn it!

My back has been bothering me more than usual during this project. I sit in a slightly different position when doing pages than I do when working on the website and the last thing I've wanted to do at home is sit at a desk, hence the lack of blogging. I've thought about it plenty, even had a few good post ideas, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

But last weekend changed things. Scoob and I were out and about running errands (new tires on the car, woot!) and stopped in at Office Max to get a refill for a nice Parker ballpoint pen I have and we left with a new desk chair (and the pen refill). Talk about your impulse buys. I've needed to replace my task chair at home since, well, since this place became our home, but I just couldn't bring myself to spend the money. I'm cheap like that. But I recently got a raise (yea!) and a bonus (yea!) at work and all the task chairs were on sale so I figured what the heck.

I also picked up a lumbar support cushion and have been using it at the office this week. What a difference! My back definitely does not feel as beat up at the end of the day! So I spoke with my manager and they'll order one for my work space. He had actually offered to order one about a year ago, but my back problems are in my upper back around the shoulder blades. I didn't understand how a lower back support would help. But oh what a glorious difference. Don't get me wrong, my back still hurts every blessed day, it's just not as excruciating. I know I'll be taking the cushion on the plane with us when we head out to North Carolina in a week or so, and in the car for the drive up to mom's for Thanksgiving. I'm seriously thinking about getting one just for the car.

Anyhow, I have tried some nummy recipes recently that I want to share and I have pictures from a (not so recent) shoe shopping extravaganza. I think that was back in September. I got a new haircut the other night. New salon and new hairdresser. It's short. I think I like it.

I need some good back juju so I can get back into the habit of blogging.