Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Turkey Day!

We’re goin’ south, ya’ll. Okay, it’s probably not considered the South (although it’s below the Mason-Dixon line so technically the South) but we’re going further south to the land of no cell reception, where the only radio station plays Jimmy Buffet’s “Heeeeey good lookin’, Whaaaaat you got cookin’”. No joke.

Thanksgiving this year brings me back to my roots. I’m staying at my grandparents house, a house that hasn't changed since I was born except for some kitchen updates and wallpaper removals. It really takes me back to when I pretended to be a chemist and mixed every spice I could find into a bottle with lemon juice and declared it “Spring in a Bottle”. Or that time I shattered the lid to the flour jar, completely by accident, and became inconsolable because it no longer matched the sugar jar. To this day, that jar lid has been replaced by one my grandfather fashioned as a replacement. And the legend lives.

One of these things is not like the other
My grandmother’s kitchen is very open and always the center of attention. So naturally it’s where I found myself pretty frequently for birthdays and holidays and general gatherings. Although the appliances have all been updated, the pictures of us as toddlers remain the same (why do we bother with school photos when we’ll never be as cute as we were with chubby cheeks?). The handmade ‘rustiques’ still hang on the walls, made by my grandmother once upon a time and sold under the name “Kilroy”. Another family legend, I have yet to see these plaster fruits anywhere else so it could be true.

Rustiques: (n) constructed fruits attached to driftwood 
This post contains no recipes. There will be plenty of post-Thanksgiving recipes for pie and cookies and cake but for now, just remember that Thanksgiving is a time to be with family. Make some memories, blow up some chestnuts because you forgot to scour them (true story), eat so much pie that when the dog eats one, you get blamed (also a true story) and don’t consider the calories or fat content while you’re doing it. Thanksgiving is historically the over-eating holiday but it doesn't seem to stop people from going on about how fattening the desserts are and how much butter is in the sweet potatoes. Unless you have a medically prescribed diet, just enjoy the butter. It’s one day of the year and family is more important than any number of calories. Please, let’s move on. 

I was grateful on Tuesday for some crazy cool things at the grocery store (Chinese cabbages would make great Christmas center pieces, if you ask me)
There is so much to be grateful for and today we focus on that. I have found myself looking at my fridge as I prepare to cook and thinking "I am so fortunate to have this full fridge". Everyday gratefulness is also acceptable. Life has its stresses, everyone has them whether they make them known or not. There will always be a deadline or a worry about this, that or the other but at the end of the day, we are lucky. We are lucky to have enough food, to have shelter, to be living our lives and not struggling to stay alive. Everyday things we take for granted. I have a friend who posts one thing she's grateful for everyday and it's not always these big things but little things like "I'm grateful for this beautiful view". It's the little things in life so with that in mind, have a very Happy Thanksgiving and dig into that second piece of pie!

This is a great view to wake up to

Friday, November 8, 2013

Red Thai Curry Sauce...Soup

I'm one of those people who orders the same things at restaurants I frequent. It's not like I don't like new things but when I go to a place with a huge menu or a bunch of things I can't picture, the default setting kicks in. For example, I'm a huge fan of pad Thai. Granted, it varies from place to place but that is my tried and true go-to for Thai restaurants. Even though I've tried my friends' dishes and they're amazing (and usually in a pineapple), my stomach has been conditioned to get pad Thai.

Pretty simple ingredients 
Well it turns out that I rather like Thai food or at least making some of it. Nothing super fancy, just some spicy Thai eggplant, spicy noodles (to be perfected), and now Thai curry sauce--or in my case soup. 

I came across this recipe during the summer as I longed for cooler days with fall leaves and a cozy blanket. To me, the picture was a bowl of soup, perfect for the fall/winter season. So I gathered my ingredients and set about making this Thai dish. I decided to pass on having quinoa as a side but this would be great over any grain. 
Sneak peak at the final product

As I read through the recipe, I realized that this sounded more like a sauce for chicken and rice but nevertheless, I was adamant in my soup endeavor. 

This literally took 15 minutes to make. Mushrooms and peppers are sautéed in olive oil while the coconut milk is brought to a boil. My coconut milk was making all kinds of freaky bubbling noises but it worked out.
This is called multi-tasking
Fish sauce, curry paste and brown sugar are added to the boiling coconut milk, followed by the vegetables. This soup/sauce can be completed here by seasoning with some basil and any additional spices you desire. The recipe calls for lemon grass but ironically, I skipped this (I couldn't find any, okay?). I decided to add some diced chicken for some added protein (plus it was already cooked and sitting in my fridge). I let this mixture simmer with some basil leaves before serving.

Those bubbles were crazy noisy

When I purchased the ingredients, I bought two peppers instead of the required one because the peppers fit together like puzzle pieces. This is probably from being crushed together in a truck but I couldn't pass up poetic peppers. I also bought the basil in a plastic container but tried to smell it anyways. No luck. When I stand in the produce section I try to be all fancy and know what the heck I'm looking for in fresh vegetables besides a lack of mold. Farmers markets are much more satisfying for smelling fresh produce and hand picking basil. In my dizzy daydreams, I'll have an herb box one day. But them I remember my brown thumb so maybe there are just more farmers markets in my future.

We were meant to be together 

The soup came out very well and if it were to be used as a sauce, I would reduce the amount of coconut milk or only use the creamiest part, much like with the fish curry where we initially separate the milk. I also found my curry paste to be a bit bland so added some cayenne pepper for some added kick.

Snuggle up with this soup and a blanket, winter is coming.

The final product

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pecan Pumpkin Scones

This is Halloween, this is Halloween, everybody scream!! I didn't think I was such a Halloween person until I had all these opportunities to dress up and decorations to hang! Now my home is a spooky insane asylum (the sign on the door says so) and so far I have had 3 costumes. I guess that makes up for the years in college when I was lame and did nothing for Halloween.

Look at the packed sugar, so packed

Last year, I made some Halloween themed treats. This year, I will still be making spooky treats but not until the weekend. So to celebrate Halloween the adult way, I made pecan pumpkin scones. Scones are serious business and therefore appropriate for the office. 

I'm so bad at crumbly the butter but I guess it worked out 

Now you might be thinking to yourself "Seriously, you just made pecan pumpkin bread. How different could this be?"  Very. Very different. For one, totally different consistency. For another, this has icing on it and it's browned butter icing. Fancy. Pants. And I'm rocking this whole pecan't convert thing.

Crushed pecans

Sometimes I find scones to be very dry and crumbly. For some reason I have always like the idea of them but in reality, usually they require a nice latte to dip them in for some moisture. These stayed nice and soft and are almost like puffy cookies. Some people even mistook them for cookies and who am I to correct them? Whatever makes you happy. I think one day I will try to make them healthy like the other scones I've made (from Health magazine so it's truly healthy).

The glaze for these scones may become one of my go-to icings. Normally when I glaze scones, the glaze comes out too thin and just runs off but this brown butter icing was actually thick enough but still wasn't like frosting. A lovely balance for scones. 

Scones make my utensils happy--or the utensils make me happy

When you're a kid, you know which houses give out the best treats. Who has the king size candy bars, who gives out healthy stuff (avoid those houses) and even who gives out sodas (true story). Everyone knows that my desk has the treats. Granted I sit near the kitchen and it's prime strolling real estate but still, gone like hot cakes! Or like delicious scones. 

The only pretty scones, the rest had glaze smeared everywhere