Monday, November 29, 2010

"i count my blessings but you can only be expected to count so high"

the song: "Love Cuts the Strings" The Mountain Goats

So how was Thanksgiving? We had a great time. There was food, there was a champagne toast, there was more food, there was a fire (outside and inside...I lost one of my favorite dish towels.) I'm glad that all the cooking and prep and clean-up is over, but it makes me a little sad to see it go.
Rowdiest kid's table ever.
Cleaning up all day Friday, I found myself with a case of the post Thanksgiving blues. It got pretty emotional. Listening to The Mountain Goats definitely didn't help. 

In short...I'm completely overwhelmed with gratitude. For the roof over my head where so many good memories have been made, the amazing interesting supportive husband, a loving healthy family, and friends that just don't quit. I could go on and on, but I might get teary eyed again.

Thanks, Thanksgiving. I really really got you this year.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"take your leftovers home"

the song: "Clean Your Plate" Bleubird*

Happy Thanksgiving!! Are you ready?

We started the celebration early last night as guests at Sidesgiving, an annual event hosted by a group of friends featuring only side dishes before everyone moves onto their family meals. So a full 24 hours before Thanksgiving even begins and I've already had my fair share of cranberry sauce, sweet potato macaroni and cheese and apple pie. Perhaps we should be taking it easy with lighter meals before the big day. But why fool around? 

Very quickly (because I know you're also all busy getting ready) here is our Thanksgiving menu. I will link to the things I'm making. Otherwise, the dishes will be prepared by our lovely and immensely talented friends. If I can brag on everyone for a moment...just look at this menu. We will be serving beer with the meal, along with champagne for the first toast and boozy coffee with dessert. Behold, Thanksgiving 2010!

Baked Brie
White Bean Hummus

Main Dish
Mushroom & Onion Shepherd's Pie

Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Fries
Macaroni & Cheese
Sweet Potato Casserole
Corn Casserole

Sweet Potato Dessert

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Have a beautiful time around the table. Drink some good beer, eat an extra piece of dessert, and enjoy every minute of the day. I am thankful for you!


* This week we got to spend some time hanging out with our friend Bleubird as he came through town. Jacques is a charismatic performer, an avid kitty enthusiast and an all around good dude who is currently traveling the country in an R.V. and making a video blog about people he meets along the way. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"pouring myself over this page"

the food: Cilantro Pecan Pesto
the song: "Honey in the Sun" Camera Obscura

I just updated my recipe index and realized "Hey, I've been rambling a lot lately! I really owe you guys a recipe." So before I get all wrapped up in Thanksgiving, here's a nice simple pesto to brighten your day. 

Have you heard that honey is good for your allergies? Since FunFunFun Fest a few weekend ago I have been coughing and sniffling. This cold marks the true beginning of fall, just like changing leaves and cooler nights. My garden still isn't convinced that summer is over, though. Checking my basil the other day, I encountered these drunk, happy bees that reminded me of the healing powers of nature. They were so enamored with those big basil blossoms. Something so alive is bound to be good for you. We're eating lots of just-picked peppers, bright green collard greens, and spicy basil pesto. 

Do you love pesto like we do? We eat pesto on just about everything. Obviously pasta, but also rice, quesadillas, grilled cheese. The list goes on. One of my favorites is a less traditional cilantro pecan pesto. Unfortunately, I've never had any luck growing cilantro. It is just too hot here...the cilantro grows happily for a few weeks, then shoots out long, airy stems and goes to seed. Fortunately, cilantro is cheap. Like, $.38 cents a bundle right now. When I make this recipe, I usually double it because it goes so fast in our house. We are pesto machines.

There are a few things that make this pesto so fabulous. One is the pecans. Pecans have become my favorite nut to include in pesto. I like the dryness and richness of pecans as opposed to more oily, sometimes bitter walnuts. Second is the unexpected flavor of the cilantro. Neither taste is overpowering. They meld together and become quite creamy, just like a good pesto should. 

There is a lot of room for variation here. If you aren't a cilanto fan, you can definitely substitute basil. I love cilantro and am not shy about my affection for this hotly debated herb. Also, if you don't care for spice you can leave out the peppers or at least take the seeds out. I like the little kick that the jalapenos add, so I throw them in seeds and all. Right before it is served, it is nice to drizzle a little extra olive oil on top. 

Come to think of it, this would actually make a pretty nice appetizer a week from today. Hmmmm...

Cilantro Pecan Pesto
adapted from Culinate 

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 hot peppers (jalapenos or serranos work well)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
squeeze lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cumin
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water (if needed)
salt & pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, combine pecans, hot peppers, garlic, cilantro, cumin, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. As you blend, add more olive oil and water until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve at room temperature with bread.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"they've got something it's so hard to find"

the song: "Friends of Mine" The Zombies

Woowee! We just got back from a whirlwind trip to Puerto Vallarta where we spent three days...

Laying on the beach.

Drinking drinks with silly names like "Swimming Pool" and "Miami Vice" (our poolside waitress' description? "Pina colada with red.")

Getting too much sun. That's me out there teetering on the edge. You can see the husband's feet, too.

And eating delicious Mexican food that was almost-certainly-not-vegetarian. Seriously though, how could I resist those chilaquiles?

It was a really amazing way to celebrate 5 amazing years of marriage, and I feel extremely fortunate that we got to dedicate time to relaxing together in a beautiful place. I'm also thankful to be home in one piece with very few travel problems.

Now you know what time it is, right? It's my favorite time of year...Thanksgiving! It's a good thing I'm relaxed because boy oh boy do I have some work to do. For the past three years the husband and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner with our friends who stay in Austin for the holiday (read about last year here.) We both look forward to this so much, because it is one of the first traditions we've created for ourselves. 

We moved into our home (with the help of a dear and super strong friend) on Thanksgiving day 4 years ago. After a day of moving, which obviously was more stressful than the average day, said strong friend had us over for an amazing Thanksgiving feast. We didn't bring a thing. I don't even think we brought beer. That night, I was able to forget the boxes to be unpacked. I was able to forget the mortgage we'd just signed and all the "am I really grown up enough to do this?" thoughts that had been racing around in my mind since we started the process of buying a home. Surrounded by our small group of our beautiful friends, eating delicious vegetarian food, I started to feel like we were doing something right. 

My confidence grew as years rolled on. The next year, we moved the party to our home. The following year we branched out and invited even more people, rearranging our kitchen and living room to accomodate everyone. This year I feel so little anxiety going into the holiday that it makes me a little nervous. 

My eerily calm state comes from having the most wonderful friends on earth. I sent out a somewhat vague Thanksgiving email to see who was around and who was interested. It was immediately met with many excited "yes" responses, descriptions of food that will grace our table next week, offers to help, and thank you's. And I'm happy to say that our awesome friend who started this tradition will be attending as well. Just like they did 4 years ago, my friends fill me with a sense of peace. We may not have it all figured out, but we're all in it together. That goes for dressing and cranberry sauce, too.

Recipes and menu to come! Stay tuned.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"we make plans for good times"

the song: "Plans" Bloc Party

Since I've started cooking, I've slowly and inadvertently developed a little game with myself. The goals are simple. Make it through the week with only one store trip and provide enough food for leftovers for everyday of the week. In order to do this, I menu plan.

Menu planning has saved us money and proven to be healthier than the "I'll just grab a bite on my way home after working a long day" strategy. But it can become tedious if it is too strict and boring if you fall into a rut. I have learned to leave a lot of room for dinners with friends, date nights, and impromptu happy hours. Come to think of it, I'm probably a little too lenient with the impromptu happy hours that turn into dinner. Oh well.

 Nothing to do with menu planning. Just thought you might like it.
If you plan your menus a week in advance, a month in advance, a few days in advance, or a whole year in advance I have a tip for you. The best tool I've found to prevent boring menu planning is tumblr. I read a lot of food blogs and when I see something I like, I add it to my tumblr for future reference. Oh how I love my tumblr page. The photos provide the best inspiration and remind me why it is worth it to menu plan and grocery shop and cook. Because I am constantly bookmarking new things, I don't get bored with cooking. It reminds me to be adventurous in the kitchen. Plus, it gives me an excuse to sit and browse food blogs for hours at a time. I'm not killing time, I'm menu planning. Really.

So what are we having this week? I'm glad you asked.

Monday: I ran across this pumpkin ricotta pasta casserole over the weekend. Doesn't it look amazing? was. You should make it. I had a few mini pumpkins for table decoration (as seen in the above photo) and last night they were (once again) put to good use. Plus, the husband will have leftovers for the rest of the week even after the nights we go out.

Tuesday: I had to buy yogurt for Monday's meal. And when yogurt is on hand, it seems appropriate to make quinoa falafel. I've been hungry for it since I wrote about it over the weekend. It's chilly today so this dinner will be a nice excuse to heat up the oven.

Wednesday: Speaking of cooler weather- I'm in the mood for soup. This roasted eggplant soup caught my eye a few weeks ago when it was still hot out. But thanks to my handy dandy tumblr page I haven't forgotten about the soup. Plus, my eggplant is still producing like crazy so we'll save a little money there and get to eat from the yard (which always tastes better.)

Thursday: San Antonio for the husband's job. Easy enough.

Friday: Out. Our buddy from New York is coming into town (yay!) and he is in desperate need of queso.

Saturday & Sunday: Beans and rice. Old friend. I put this on our weekend menu a lot. I always have these 2 things in my pantry, plus salsa. We have tons of peppers growing right now to dress it up a little bit. Beans and rice always makes me feel so good. I like knowing it's there. It will wait for me if we stay out all day. It won't be mad if I put it off until the next night. It never gets its feelings hurt when I pass it up for flashier meals. The perfect thing for a weekend.

Now I'm off to start dinner! What are you having this week?