First Full Table

It’s been a while, but I must say in my absence I have been having a lot of fun.  There’s a lot to catch up on so since we have just finished up a holiday weekend, I’ll start there.

The last couple of years we have had Poppy and Monte over for holidays.  We love hosting with friends and letting them in on a few family traditions as Honey & I make our new ones with them.  So this year Monte and Poppy brought over an extra guest, we didn’t mind she was nice and really didn’t eat too much of the food.  Of course I am referring to their six month old daughter, who technically was at last years tThanksgiving as well but this time we got to feed her turkey.  She was a delight, super cute, and the rest of guests adored her.  We also had a friend I knew from the farm Mordecai* and her fiancé Whistle. She moved here from the West Coast and it was her first holiday season in town.  Remembering how awkward holidays can be in a new town I was sure to invite her over as soon as Halloween had passed.  Apparently we spared both of them some major family drama.

Our Thanksgiving table was expanding for the first time and I was thrilled.  But it didn’t end there, two more friends joined in as well.  My eight person table that I got with the thought that someday it be would full, even though at the time we didn’t know anybody, finally reached capacity last Thursday.  It was a moment for both Honey and I, seeing the smiling faces around the table and knowing that we have a little Family of Friends here.  I should also point out that this is the first time everyone had met one another and everyone got along wonderfully. Even though everyone was different ages, martial statuses, and even different countries.  I joked we had a little United Nations Thanksgiving going.  Honey suggested I knit placemat flags of the countries for each of our guests.  I told him my skills were not developed enough for the ridges of the Canadian Maple leaf.  At least this year. 😉

Honey made the turkey, the deviled eggs, the gorgous sourdoughs pictured below, and for the first time I let him make cornbread stuffing from scratch.  I must admit that is was pretty yummy, it’s been one of my  holdouts of childhood nostalgia to have Stove Top.  The other one holdout I used to have was Log Cabin syrup over real Maple Syrup, but I shrugged that one off a few years ago.

I made scalloped potatoes, pumpkin pie and for the first time a pecan pie.  I also made cranberry sauce for the first time, which was ridiculously easy and got a few people out of their childhood traditions of using the fabulously canned cranberry sauce that still had the shape of said can when put onto the table.  I added some orange and allspice, it was great.

We also cracked open our latest brew, an ale that we call Sandy Claws Christmas Ale.  We brewed it in October, so it seemed appropriate.

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I didn’t get many pictures during the evening, which to me is always a good sign that I was having fun and being there in the moment.  But sometimes I wish I would remember to at least take one or two.

After dinner we all stayed around the table and talked, which shocked me because I figured with the table being as full as it was we would scatter ourselves out into the kitchen and tv room.  But everyone sat around talking and laughing, so why stop it? At one point Whistle shared with us that he plays the Penny Whistle and if we’d like he would play us some songs.  He played three Irish ones that were so beautiful.  It was the first time that we had live music in the house and I couldn’t have asked for a better after dinner entertainer.  It was lovely, he’s welcome to all of our dinner parties from now on.  Haha.

The next day Honey went to work, I attempted to see the counters of our kitchen again (even with a dishwasher it was platters galore).  I was good and also went for a walk to work of that cornbread stuffing.  When Honey got home  we did a little patio time which included a bourbon and a cigar (for me).  We stayed in to avoid any Black Friday madness that might be going on and relaxed at home.  The weather was perfect and we stayed outside until the sun went down.

On Saturday we went to one of the Pop-up shops for Small Business Saturday near a brewery and got some local art and saw some friends. And since we were at a brewery had a glass or two of some seasonal beers along with some very yummy Food Truck dishes.

Then Yesterday I began taking down the Fall decorations and putting up the Christmas ones.  I have strict rules about that, no Christmas lights out when there is Turkey on the table in our house. =)

It was an amazing weekend full of some of the wonderful people we know.  I was thankful for the company, the incredible food we had, and the friendships developing.  Everyone told me they had a great time, so here’s hoping that we just started a new Thanksgiving tradition.

 

 

 

*all italicized names are the first time I am using their nicknames

Revisit, Refresh

It looked like I had fallen back into the swing of blogging again, didn’t it?  Sorry…again.

The winter blues did sneak up on me a bit, that awkward time when the winter just gets annoying and everything you do or plan just seems to be in anticipation of Spring.  But there was one thing that we did not have to wait for Spring to enjoy, and that was a trip out to the coast to see our lovely friends Kudra and Porter.

Back in San Diego, when we first met them, we had heard from various sources about the incredibleness and the joy that is their St. Patrick’s Day Party.  And this year we got to go.  The evite went out and I said yes before I even knew if we had secured a couch or floor area to sleep on.  When I did speak to her later asking for dibs on some square footage in the living room, she told me that one of their guest bedrooms was available if we wanted it. Uh, yes please!  We also worked out that we would come up a day early so we could hang out and I could be her Sous Chef if needed.

A few nights before we left I started getting a bout of insomnia.  I get it from time to time, there were many things that could have caused it, the time change being the most obvious.  But as anyone who has had a few loss of night’s sleep can tell you, your personality becomes less than pleasant.  The night before we left I went to bed early but only probably got 4 hours of sleep.  I woke up at my usual time (6:30) and started making the two batches of scalloped potatoes that I was bringing for the party.  Once I was done it was time to pack the car and myself to head down the road.  I was a wreck, practically sleep walking but Honey drove and I caught a few hours of a nap on the way there.

When we got to Kudra’s and Porter’s I was a few more steps above sleepwalking, and they were cooking up a storm. At last glance the party was going to be around 30 people (hence the two batches of potatoes).  Kudra had Soda Bread piling high.

bread

Believe it or not this is not a staged photo, she was just piling up the bread so it would cool.

Porter was in the garage cooking up the corned beef.  Honey kept him company and they discussed beer brewing and various other subjects, while I stayed with Kudra in the kitchen and helped in anyway I could.

cabbage

We talked about what we had been up to the last few months.  Kudra and I used to walk around The Lake often and usually would be talking the whole time.  In the span of time since those walks I forgot just how much we used to share with each other.  The first few times we visited each other’s new homes and cities, we all stayed in a group of four for the most part-so those talks didn’t happen.  We realized it a little too late on one trip and while we were supposed to be saying good-bye we ended up in an almost three hour talk.  Now we try to fit in at least a little walk to talk and catch up without the menfolk around. This trip we had the kitchen to ourselves for hours and lots of talking was had.  I told her about the insomnia and she had some suggestions.  She has been taken a herbalism course and gifted me with a lovely therapeutic oil blend.

As we talked over our cooking prep about all of things that were going on in our lives, I felt more at peace than I had in a while.  My relationships in my new city are still relatively new and I know that I keep a good amount of my feelings and opinions to myself, it was very refreshing to put some more out there and to not be  worried about how it would come across.  Kudra always listens and more times that not completely understands. She has been very open with me, even from our first stroll around the lake and that has (I think) in turn made me more open with her.  Perhaps I can use that logic to have others be more open with me.

When the guys emerged from the large pot cooking we put together a little dinner and chatted together.  The plan was to participate in 5k walk the next morning, but since we were in town the rain had come to the coast once again.  Around midnight we began making promises that we would not do the walk if it was raining (we had already made the donation, so it was no loss to the cause).  We played chicken with time to see how long we could stay up and see if the rain had in fact washed out our early morning plans.  A few hours later  after much more talking and cooking, we hesitatingly got into bed.  Kudra made me a vitamin mixture before bedtime and made sure we had some lavender oil burring in our room as we slept.  Even though we only had a few hours sleep it was the best sleep I had gotten in weeks.

We all woke up the next morning, got dressed and watched as the sky opened up and rained on us the whole way there.  But about ten minutes before the walk started, the rain stopped.  We all walked quickly (trying to keep up with Kudra’s mother who was also there) and not a drop fell on us.  Later we caught a late breakfast at restaurant near Kudra’s Mom’s place and it began raining again.  It then rained for most of the day and throughout the St. Patrick’s Day Party.  It didn’t seem to put a damper on the day and after all of the wonderful food I ate I was thankful to have had morning exercise.

The party was wonderful, it was a mix of her nearby family and their friends.  The food was incredible, from the corned beef to the cabbage to the vegan shepherd’s pie to the homemade soda bread from a grandma’s recipe book.  Then the guests all brought something, serious dents were made in my scalloped potatoes even tough there were four other potato dishes around.  Someone brought around 50 “Irish Carbomb” Cupcakes and so many other delicious desserts I lost count of how many bites I took off of Honey’s plate. Porter served his incredible homemade Stout and another one of their guests brought his award winning Stout (I actually liked Porter’s more).  I also had my first glass of Moonshine.  I know, two years in the South and this is my first glass?  You can buy the regulated ones in the stores but this was actual moonshine.  It passed the the test without blue sparks and no one went blind.  It was actually pretty good, sweet as all hell, but good in a small amount.

The people at the party were wonderful,l as I expected friend’s of theirs would be.  They were warm and welcoming and tried their best to convince us to move to their town.  Which was very tempting 🙂 We have offers of boat rides and staying at beach houses the next time we blow into town (with hopefully better weather next time).

The next day Porter made corned beef hash with what little leftovers they were able to hide away and the sun finally came out for us to enjoy breakfast on their porch with some Bloody Mary’s.  The time went too quick and it after a while we had to pack our things to head home.  Honey I talked a lot on the drive back.  There has been a certain disconnect with who we feel we are here.  Nothing weird between us as a couple but rather how we are here.  Lifestyle stuff is different and while nature is more prevalent, the connection to it is not.

When we got back home we made decisions and plans regarding our reconnection.  We somehow scored a composter like the one we had in San Diego at 40% off and already assembled (which was a pain the last time).  We decided to say screw if it is “not allowed”, we can’t keep on living in a way we don’t feel comfortable with.  It is hiding behind a bush where only one or two neighbors can see and one of them said they thought it was great.  I picked up an oil diffuser and some lavender to help keep me having the same lovely sleep I had at their house.  I also got the vitamin mixture she gave me and I have felt great.  We grilled some fish in the backyard and ran into another neighbor who complimented the things we had done with the yard and agreed those cedars were horrible.  I have been sleeping better, cooking better, and even communicating better since we got back.  I didn’t realize how disjointed I felt before we left, but two nights among friends seems to have put us back into a more happy place.  As being around such wonderful people has a tendency to do. 😉

Chocolate Pot de Crème

A day late, but as I hope you will find, worth the wait.  Here is the recipe I used for the Chocolate Pot de Creme.

This is out of (surprisingly) one of my favorite and most used cookbooks, The Better Home & Garden Cookbook.  I have a few adjustments as per usual.  First of all I found using the double-boiler method when heating the chocolate and cream worked better for preserving as much chocolate mixture as possible and excess elbow grease from the cleaning and soaking I had to the first time I tried this recipe.  I also use stainless steel pots so they can be a little trickier when it comes to heating. I also recommend using the yummiest chocolate you have and maybe using a little bit more than 6 oz of it (maybe-7 to 8).

This recipe can also be divided in half quite easily if you are not entertaining for 8.

Chocolate Pot de Crème

Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 10 minutes  Chill: 4 hours to 24 hours

Makes: 8-ish servings

Ingredients:

2 Cups Whipping Cream

6-8 oz  Semisweet Chocolate, coarlsey chopped.

(I used Ghirardelli’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips 60% Cacao and I didn’t chop them up)

1/3 Cup Sugar

4 Beaten Egg Yolks

1 tsp Vanilla

1. In a medium heavy saucepan combine whipping crew, chocolate, and sugar.  Cook and stir over medium heat about 10 minutes or until mixture comes to a full boil and thickens.

2. Gradually stir all of the hot mixture into the beaten yolks; stir in vanilla.  Divide chocolate into 8 sake cups, small cups, or small 3 oz ramekins*.

3. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours before serving. Place garnish before serving.

4. Listen to all the ooh and ahhs as you family or guest gobble them down.

* I used 10 oz ramekins to leave room for fruit or other garnishes like peeled chocolate.

Chocolate Pot de Creme

Garlic & Rosemary Chicken

After I finished the first draft of my novel I waited the few weeks I gave myself to let it rest in my mind. I then picked up my trusty red pencil and began making the edits. I now have a very red hard copy of my novel.

I took a break from blogging because honestly I didn’t know where I was going to go from here.  Was I going to share the ins and outs of my writing process here, would I form another blog to make connections with other writers, or was I just going to go “June Cleaver” of this thing and let the novel part just be a cute pun?  The truth is that I still haven’t decided but I’ve really missed writing here… so here I am.

I have been enjoying the summer.  We have explored new places in town and a few out of town, I have won courageously against the Battle of the Beige in our house (even with the summer weather), my sister Firefly came back for a visit and got to see some sunny days this time, our garden has shocked us with how much it has produced in such a short time, and we have really enjoyed getting to know our new friends out here.  Oh and we discovered one of the most addicting board games ever…Star Trek Catan.  Seriously don’t start playing the game unless you have time for a couple rounds.  Thankfully (for our sake) it requires three people to play, so we have to wait until we have a willing guest to dive back into it.  Anyone free Sunday afternoon? 😉

Today I am keeping close to the kitchen because I have an enormous pot simmering on the stove.  I am making my first homemade chicken stock from a chicken I roasted over the weekend.  It’s one of those days where they have been predicting rain, but the sun is shining and our plants are threatening to wilt if they don’t get a sip of water soon.  While I debate the merits of a pre-storm watering I have been organizing and categorizing files on my computer.  I’ll let you know how the stock turns out, but I happen to know that the chicken that I am making with it was delicious, so I will share that reipe with you now.

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This is my own hybrid of a recipe, I have seen parts of it in books and around the web, so if you have any feedback I am all ears.  Now I treat raw chicken like it is acid so I wash my hands a million times when I make it and I try my best to make it so I don’t touch anything I don’t need to while I handle the chicken.

So with that in mind I highly recommend taking everything out of the pantry/fridge before you unwrap the chicken.  I found that grinding the pepper into its own little prep bowl helps, same with the salt. Make sure your garlic cloves our peeled and the rosemary is clean.

Garlic & Rosemary Roasted Chicken:

(1)one whole chicken 3-5lbs

(4-6) sprigs of rosemary

(2-6) whole cloves of garlic

(3) Tbsp Olive Oil

(2-3) tsp Ground Black Pepper

(2) tsp Kosher Salt

(2) tsp dried rosemary (or fresh if you want

large Dutch/French oven capable of being in a 450 degree oven (I use use the 6.5 qt Costco Le Creuset knock-off)

meat thermometer

enough aluminum foil to cover the chicken

 

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. rub around a tsp of olive oil all over the inside the oven pot with a paper towel

3. empty chicken cavity of its insides, wash inside and out and then dry with paper towels.  Once it’s dry put chicken into oven pot

4. put 1-2 tsp of pepper and 1 tsp of salt into cavity of chicken.

5. put 4 springs of fresh rosemary and the garlic into chicken cavity

5. OPTIONAL: stuff a few springs of fresh rosemary between the chicken breast and its skin.

6. rub bird with remaining olive oil.

7. Sprinkle the rest of salt and pepper onto the bird.

8. sprinkle dried (or fresh rosemary) onto the bird

9. Put on the middle rack of the oven with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not cover.

10. Cook until internal temperature has reached 180 degrees, it should take around an hour to get to that temperature.   (Just to be on the safe side I usually cook my chicken until 183 degrees).

11. Once it is cooked, remove it from the oven and put a piece of aluminum foil over the bird.  Let it cool for ten minutes and then transfer to another plate or board to serve.

Enjoy with potatoes and steamed vegetables, or if someone at the table has been very good: biscuits.

NH Tip: Citrus On Hand

Since moving to the East Coast we have had a few issues with stocking fresh citrus.  A few of my favorite dishes call for one lime or lemon but they go bad ridiculously fast here. I usually have to use them within 48 hours of purchase or risk having an leathery textured fruit.  Since I only go to the store once or twice a week this can present a problem, but I have found a way to fix it…juicing.   Kudra told me about this years ago but it wasn’t until we got here that I did it regularly. She also likes to freeze her homemade pesto and use small cubes of lemon juice in her iced tea.

If you have a problem with keeping fresh citrus and want to save a few pennies do this:

Buy a bag of limes and or lemons (I get mine from Costco and its like $6 for over two dozen limes, much better than the $.69 ea I pay at the store)

Zest the citrus and seal it into a freezer bag-be sure to get as much air out as possible.

Juice the citrus and pour into ice cube trays.  Be sure to measure how much of your lime or lemon goes into a cube because a lot of recipes call for the juice of one lime or lemon, not a volume measurement.

Freeze the bag and the trays.

Once the juice cubes are frozen put them into a freezer safe zip lock baggy.  Please remember label the outside of the bag, it my be hard to tell them apart once they are in identical baggies.  You could also put them in different ice cube trays.  For example I use the large 1x1x1 tray for the lemons and my Tiki tray for the limes if I am juicing them around the same time.

Juicing limes

Balance & Over Prepping

For the last few weeks I have been keeping to myself.  Occasionally I would think of something fun to post, but either the timing or the inspiration fled by the time I got to the Add New Post page.  Maybe if I get in the habit again those posts will find their way to the publish button.  I’ve been doing good and on occasion great.  I have been focusing on the “novel” part while trying to balance with the “housewife” part. On the days I am at home and not running around with grocery shopping and errands, I try and split the day in two with part of it devoted to the house and other housewives things and the other part on the novel or other creative endeavors.  I have been able to pull this off a few times for the last few months, but you know things happen.  Like yesterday when I tried to replace the toilet seat in our bathroom, something that should be a ten minute task tuned into an hour and half battle that required six tools and many cleaning supplies.  By the time the new seat was installed (I won!) I was grimy and feeling an early Spring Cleaning itch.  Somewhere around four I gave up scrubbing and mopping and took a shower, but before I did I scrubbed the shower floor too.  Since yesterday ended up being completely devoted to housewife stuff I am trying to make today a mostly novel/creative stuff day.   I don’t know about you but I wrestle with trying to make time for not necessarily fun stuff, but stuff that soothes the soul.

The novel has been coming along pretty well, I have made more progress on it in the last few months than in the years before it.  It’s funny when time passes with a thought or idea, it evolves and reflects the changing of ideals that comes with that time.  Pretty much the book I started writing is not the one I am writing now, which I think is a good thing.  Of course other ideas for other stories have visited me in my dreams or popped in when I was least expecting it.  It is tempting to put my away the story that has been living in the tense muscles in my shoulders and move on to something  little lighter and fun, but I know that the story would always still be there ruining my posture and aching after a bad night’s sleep.  So I have been carefully trying to to coax it out and keep on moving forward. My light hearted story can wait.

Last week I was snowed in for the first time.  Yes, you heard me-in the South the city pretty much shuts down if there is more than two inches of snow.  Before we moved we looked up our cities weather averages, it had 4″ of snow expected annually.  Not too much, just enough to say “hey, look it’s snowing” but not enough to make you curse the winter.  I never looked up the final totals from last week but I would bet it around 6″ of snow and ice that fell in a 2-3 day period.  I saw how crazy grocery stores get before a snow storm, my usual empty 9 am store looked more like a 6:30 on a Thursday night.  I was sure that we had milk and bread (because that is apparently what you must have during a snow storm).  I got food that didn’t need refrigeration and ingredients for a pasta casserole that could feed us for days if we loss the use of our electric oven.  Snow Feb 2014

Honey worked from home the majority of the week, I wrote a little but not as much as I could of.  I had sealed up the extra bedrooms (including my office) to keep the heat concentrated in the main rooms and energy output down.  Not having my office space with a chair and desk to write at made writing awkward.  The couch would eat me and the cats would lay across my lap and onto my keyboard to keep warm. The scene outside was also very beautiful and I often found myself day dreaming while looking out the window.  It didn’t help matters that the newscasters were pretty much telling us power loss was eminent, so I was keeping every thing that needed a charge hooked into the wall while obsessively checking news and weather websites.  It was my first snow-in, cut me some slack.  I was worried about loosing power because then we would loose heat and I had heard of people being without electricity for days out here.  But we never did loose power, the pasta casserole I made fed Honey and I for three days, we never ran out of milk, and we didn’t even touch the bread.  After Honey was done with his work day we would walk around the neighborhood and play in the snow.  We stayed off the roads like the Governor and Mayor told us to and thankfully had an uneventful set of days.

We even tried to make the best of it by having a treat or two, hey we didn’t want the cheese to go bad if the power went out. 😉

By the way I think we gave Hitchcock the right name, he seems to do a cameo in every picture we take.

Green Bean Recipe

I have a confession to make, up until a few weeks ago I was not what you would call a Green Bean enthusiast.  I avoided the Green Bean Casserole at family holidays, I passed on the meals in restaurants that listed it as a side, I walked by them at the supermarket… but now I have converted to a Green Bean Lover.

We have been going to a local farmer’s market for the last few weeks and every week we are picking up a new item we don’t usually eat.  The first week was Green Beans and now we get them every time we go!  Below is a recipe that helped me take the leap.

Green Beans

Ingredients:

1 lb Fresh Green Beans

2 chopped up green onions

2-4 Cloves of Garlic (depending on how much love garlic)

1/2 of aGreen Bell Pepper (chopped)

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Butter (I prefer salted)

1 cup low sodium Chicken Broth

1/2-1 tsp salt (Kosher is best)

1-2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

 

1. Snap stems off of green beans (or cut if you prefer)

2. Over a low medium heat, warm the butter and olive oil in a skillet pan.

3.  Add Garlic & Onion, cook and stir for one minute

4. Add the Green Beans to pan and cook and stir until green beans become bright green (should be a minute or so).

5.  Add the chicken broth, green bell pepper, salt, and black pepper.

6. Turn the heat down to low, leave the lid cracked so steam can escape.  Cook for 20-30 minutes or until liquid evaporates.  The beans should still be a little crisp.

ENJOY!