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Home for the Holidays

The holiday weekend is over. Now to get ready for Christmas.

I realized this was our 40th Thanksgiving together. Our first, we headed to PA so I could meet my future in-laws. After that, we regularly spent the day with one of our families.

Usually we went to PA. Then, for the past 12 years we headed to Annapolis to visit my mom and my brother’s family. All of that changed this year. With mom’s passing, and my brother in the midst of a move to eastern VA, we found ourselves without plans for the weekend.

It was weird but also quite peaceful. No last minute crises. No traffic woes. We spent the last five days doing what we wanted when we wanted.

It was heavy with local influences, in a series of meals. We spread it out. I did oyster stew one night with oysters from Boarman’s. We had our Maple Lawn turkey on Thanksgiving.

I made sides and seasonings that we like. My dressing used chorizo and fresh bread cubes made from my CSA ancient grain bread. My homemade cranberry sauce was tangy from the lemon and orange in it. I made creamed spinach instead of green beans.

My husband went up to Dandelion Bistro Wednesday night to pick out a dessert for Thursday. Smith Island cake. Not traditional at all. So, so good though.

Tonight we used more of that leftover turkey along with some of the stock I made from the turkey bones. Pappardelle’s orzo bought from Secolari at Mary’s Land Farm.

We have enough turkey left for sandwiches, and enough soup for another dinner.

As for other things we did, we had a wonderful meal to celebrate my husband’s birthday at Hudson Coastal. We went Saturday night during our latest deluge. The restaurant was busy but not overwhelmed, and the food was excellent.

Today I watched the traffic backups and was thankful our days of nail-biting drives are over. But, we miss our parents. We are thankful we had so many years to share holidays. We just need to adjust to new routines and make new memories.

Tomorrow? Baking for the Conservancy holiday sale, where we make a potluck lunch for volunteers and vendors. The sale is Saturday and is a highlight of the start of many activities leading up to Christmas.

Baking

German Baking. Classic German Baking.

Most of my family is of German descent. I grew up with German influenced cooking and baking on both sides of the family. For me, the discovery of Luisa Weiss’s book, Classic German Baking, was a special treat for the holidays.

I opted to download the eBook when I found a great deal for it. I am glad I did it. I have already made two cookies for the holidays, and have dozens of treats bookmarked for the future.

Luissa’s Pfeffernüsse is far beyond those dry things you buy in the store.

I had to hide the container that I want to use for my Christmas gifts so my husband wouldn’t eat them all. I have to make more of these. I love them. Not really sweet, but just right. The secret to good German baking is finding ingredients. Like Baker’s Ammonia.

Thanks to Amazon Prime and “OliveNation” I had what I needed to make these cookies. For those of us really old, this is smelling salts. Seriously. But, it works to make the cookies vastly different from other non-traditional recipes.

I also made Vanillakipferl. The authentic version of almond crescents.

I went with the use of almond meal, and I also made my own vanilla sugar, by blitzing a vanilla bean, pod and all, in the sugar, and letting it mellow for a few days before using.

Fragile. Fresh from baking, and dredged in confectioner’s sugar mixed with vanilla sugar, these melt-in-our-mouth morsels are a memory of cookies my mom used to make. My paternal grandmother was born in Austria. These cookies are something special to me, as I pay tribute to my heritage.

Next year? I will work in advance to try Lebkuchen, which need time in advance to “age”, and who knows. Maybe I will spring for those Springerle molds.

I also have my eye on a cookie that reminds me of Berger’s cookies. That would be really bad for my waistline.

Turkey All Ways

Thanksgiving is over. That 14 pound turkey is history. Or, is it? Quite a bit of it is in the freezer in some form or another. Stock. Soup base.

This year my local Maple Lawn Farm turkey was the subject of an experiment. How best to cook the big bird.

I did three different preparations. Using The Food Lab as inspiration. I cut the turkey in half. Cut half of it in half. That gave me three blank canvases to use. Half of it I dry brined. Mixture of salt and Provencal herbs. Massaged under the skin.

It went into the oven on 300 degrees for the first 45 minutes and was finished at 400 degrees to crisp it up.

The verdict? This was by far the best turkey I have made for the holidays. Dry brining is the way to go. It took 24 hours in the refrigerator to brine this turkey. We ate the wings, thighs and drumstick for dinner, and broke down the breast meat to make a simple turkey Bolognese for two nights of dinner this weekend.

Take your favorite Bolognese recipe and substitute turkey for beef.

The other breast was dry rubbed. Just a variation by using spices instead of herbs.

The dry rub included cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne and salt.

This part of the bird became salad. So tender and juicy. We mixed it with cherries, celery, pistachios, mayo and pickle juice. It has been lunch for most of the past week. Never getting tired of this mix.

As for the other quarter, I followed my old wet brine recipe. Cider, oranges, and brown sugar, boiled with a healthy dose of salt. I do agree with the Food Lab assessment. It made the meat mushy instead of sharp and flavorful. Most of this meat went into my soup base.

We ended up with two containers of soup base in the freezer. When I bring them out, they will get heated with egg noodles and a bit of stock to thin them down.

Also done this weekend, a large pot of stock. Two quarts in the freezer.

That one 14 pound bird will be yielding 16 meals for the two of us. Not a bad return on investment. Besides, who gets tired of turkey? Not us.

Simple Indulgences

Just in time for Valentine’s Day. A compilation of some of our latest simple meals. Made with high quality local items and consisting of less than six ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).

I will be cooking at home again tomorrow to avoid the overcrowded restaurants. It will be simple also.

You can easily make these at home.

I did parsnip fries the other day. I loved them so much we will be making them tomorrow again.

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Baked in a 400 degree oven. Just cut the parsnips, lay them on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary. Mix them before putting in the oven. Roast for about 12 minutes. Put them on a paper towel to drain. We had them with a yogurt based dressing for dipping.

I will be making halibut, maybe on the grill like I did these a while back.

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The weather here is going to be close to 50 degrees tomorrow. It’s time to check out the grill and move things back outdoors, as spring isn’t that far away. This grill method is very easy. Minimal seasoning. Brushed with oil. I used some of my pesto cubes from the freezer for this meal, but you can always buy a small jar of good pesto. Or, just whirl some parsley or basil in the processor with olive oil, salt and pepper.

We will have assorted cheeses from my CSA, and do another of our comparison wine flights, like we did here with two local Sauvignon Blancs. These were from Virginia. Glen Manor is made in a New Zealand style. It has that pineapple-y citrus-y taste. It goes well with seafood, and with omelets, and of course, with cheese. The Linden Avenius, made more in a French style, flinty and with a bit more acid on the finish. We served these wines with a mushroom omelet. And with an aged Gruyere cheese.

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Tomorrow, I am thinking of serving two Viogniers for comparison. More on our final decisions when I post again, after Valentine’s Day.

You may want to try a simple meal at home, instead of going out. Take your time. Dine by candlelight. Make something with just a few ingredients.

Change is Hard

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First of all, Happy New Year! I have been fairly busy with the painting around here, and haven’t kept up the blog. At least I remembered to change the copyright notice date to the current year. Hopefully, I can remember to write the correct year on all these checks we keep writing.

As for the past, current and future, I admit, not sorry to see 2016 go away. To us, 2016 brought Medicare, Social Security and lots of other reminders of getting older. Like realization that bad weather is worse when you aren’t a spring chicken anymore. Last year’s blizzard and tornado proved to be problems for us. In minor ways, but still problems.

We learned that we had to change things. Make things more accessible. Eliminate possible accident sources. Update bathroom, kitchen and other interior spaces. All these things are disruptive. Sometimes I think even more so because we are retired and here most days. We didn’t get to run away to the office and come home to the chaos only at night. Or, have the luxury like those on-HGTV people who could stay elsewhere while their houses were under renovation. I understand why people resist doing renovations. It can literally stress you out to the point of wanting to give it up. Yes, the results are nice, but living in complete disarray gets to me.

Every item from my pantry is in bags and boxes on my family room floor. Cooking is difficult.

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Add to it, the sheer shock factor of going to a bright yellow.

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Let’s just say I really like it. My better half? He’s still adjusting to the major color change.

We at least had New Year’s Eve dinner even while working around it all. I have to say that this recipe is a keeper, and it was a simple meal served with an excellent bubbly.

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Emeril Lagasse’s Oyster Stew. Recipe from online. Oysters from the Jessup Seafood Market. A side salad. Champagne savored from beginning of cooking through to a glass just before we gave up and crashed around 11:30. Yep, we couldn’t make it until midnight.

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Here’s to a better brighter 2017! At least my kitchen will be bright and cheery.

A Very Merry

Holiday Season. Beginning and ending, and all those days between. By now, many friends and relatives have done the eating, drinking, giving, and receiving as they celebrate this weekend.

Here, I suppose I can say we are celebrating. All I wanted for Christmas was the decision, and planning, to tackle our biggest painting and updating project. Namely, my kitchen. The heart of our home. The place we spend the most time, and the room that made me want to buy this house a dozen years ago.

cookie central before

cookie central before


cookie central Friday

cookie central Friday

When I said that’s what I wanted for Christmas and my birthday, I didn’t mean it literally, but surprise, that’s how it is turning out. It seems that in order to have my favorite painter and carpenter doing our job, it was best to fit it between some major work that our general contractor has in 2017. And, of course, December and January are slow times in the construction and renovation business.

farewell, pot rack

farewell, pot rack

So, last Thursday it began. Stripping wallpaper borders. Tomorrow, and most of this week, dry wall repair, priming, and the earliest tasks. While waiting for the electrician to give me new (please non-humming) overhead lighting. Sometime later next week, ceiling painting, then final painting of all the walls.

the usual spot for the tree

the usual spot for the tree

This means that I am seriously not thinking straight. To tackle this during the holidays. That’s what I get, I suppose, for saying I don’t want presents anymore. I just want to finish all the laundry list of projects that still need to be done.

Crossing my fingers that the 30 year old stove continues to work, until I get myself ready to tackle that really large item on that list.

Everyone. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, etc. I may not have decorated much this year, but I did get the poinsettias.

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A Betty Crocker Christmas

Remember these?

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My first recipes. Back in 1975 when I moved to Columbia. I found the box up in the attic inside a moving carton, along with my husband’s recipe cards. His were McCall’s and bought when he first moved to Columbia in 1977 (he learned to cook from them, in his new townhouse before I met him).

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That budget casserole up in my cards? Made an appearance many nights for my two roommates and me. Just 1/2 pound of ground beef and one egg. Really cheap eats. Back when we couldn’t afford anything fancier.

I decided to pull out the cookie cards and make some of them for Christmas. Along with an old favorite. This one.

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Which was on the menu tonight.

As for the cookies, check these out.

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Shortbread. Crescents. Caramel-nut bars.

I still have spice cookies and toffee to make tomorrow, but this is a trip back in time. And, no, I didn’t succumb and use Crisco, even when the recipes called for it.

Any old memories being resurrected for your holiday?

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I may be tempted to make that fudge too.