Monday, December 29, 2014

Georgia On My Mind

This year, we drove to Georgia for Christmas and celebrated with my brother and his family. My parents went, too. It was the first time since 2010 that my entire family was together for the Christmas holiday. It was a long drive to northern Georgia - it took us 12.5 hours to get there because of holiday traffic & accidents. Ugh! 

In the past year, my brother purchased several acres of land, sold his house, and built a new house on the newly purchased land in the mountains. We stayed in the small town at a hotel, not at the new house, and the first time we drove to the new house, my brother had to meet us at the intersection of his dirt road and the paved road because the turn is very difficult to spot. It's not marked. Then he gave us a lesson in driving our car up the mountain road of dirt and gravel and warned us to keep it in first gear, keep it at 10-12 mph, and beware of going too far left or right and into the ditches! 
It's so beautiful and peaceful at his new home. His dog met us in the driveway. She is a fantastic dog! Oh my goodness, I wanted to steal her. I kept telling my brother I was going to lure her back to Pittsburgh with leftover holiday ham. She's calm, mellow, friendly, gentle, not at all jumpy - I never saw her jump on anyone. She just wanders around and hangs out. She doesn't bark just because someone arrives at the house or walks past her.

She does, however, beg. She would look at me with those sad, hopeful eyes and I would be suckered into sharing my food. She won't touch any food unless it is offered to her. You can leave a plate of food on the coffee table and walk away and she'll just sit there, staring at it. She's allowed some people food, but she also likes dog biscuits, which is what she's eating in the below photo.
There was lots of laughing, playing games, meeting our niece's "special friend," visiting with my SIL's family, opening gifts, and of course, eating. The weather was beautiful, especially on Friday, so my brother fired up his smoker and smoked some ribs and pork loin. It was so strange to be sitting outside on the porch without a jacket on December 26 and not be freezing cold!
 His smoked pork was, as always, delicious and had a great smoke ring.
We got to see my niece's car and she received lots of car stuff from Santa (car wax, car air freshener, etc.). She just turned 16 and after a year of permit driving, she can now apply for her permanent license, as soon as she can nail the parallel parking part of the driving exam.

My dad got to drive my brother's big red tractor:
And SP got to fire our nephew's shotgun. Yup. Shotgun. Things sure are different in the GA mountains! Actually, a lot of people where they live hunt, and my brother wanted to be sure his son knew about guns and gun safety. The guns are kept locked up and the ammo in a separate location and nephew isn't allowed to use any unless his dad is there to supervise. It was SP's first time firing a gun. The one they took out was a 20 gauge shotgun. I didn't try it. Everyone said I'd shoot my arm off (ha ha) but my brother has a designated "shooting area" on his land and since I couldn't get to it in the wheelchair, I didn't get to try out the shotgun. I'm kinda bummed about that.
My brother also has an outdoor cat for keeping small critters away. I do not like cats. At all. I suppose this cat is OK. It sure seemed to want to be my friend. It walked all over our car, leaving tiny paw prints. My brother dumped the evil critter in my lap then cackled at my subsequent freak out. I was happier when it stayed away. Far away.

I'm already looking forward to our next visit. It was so nice to hang out in the mountains, have a fire in the fire pit, smell the smoker smoking meat, gaze up at so many stars in the clear sky, enjoy a gentle and calm dog, and terrorize the cat.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tradition: Grandma's Ham & Pork Balls with Mustard~Brown Sugar~Vinegar Sauce

I know I've written about my grandma's Ham & Pork Balls before, but I couldn't find the recipe on the blog. So I decided to write another post about them. I say that they're a tradition, but they were not a tradition when I was growing up. It has only been in the last 7-8 years that Grandma's Ham & Pork Balls have become a Christmas tradition.

Grandma always made turkey for Thanksgiving and ham for Christmas & Easter. The pork balls were not a holiday dish. They are, however, like her "weekend" potato salad: "Legendary!" Those 2 dishes are perhaps the ones that her family most enjoyed, the ones that always stick in our minds. Her potato salad was so good that when she would make a large batch and take it to the family cottage for a weekend with the family, we polished it off by mid-day Saturday. The "weekend potato salad" lasted maybe half a day!

The ham & pork balls story is remembered every Christmas now, even though it happened at a random Sunday dinner. In short, there was a family gathering at grandma's house when I was a little girl and my dad and grandpa, who love these meatballs, engaged in a pork ball eating contest. I don't think there was a clear winner. They both ate an obscene number of meatballs - I think family legend puts it at about 22 each. But I remember sitting at the table, everyone was done eating except for those two, sitting at opposite ends so they were facing each other, and grandpa would eat one then look at dad, daring him to down another. My dad, of course, would eat another and look at his dad, as if to say, ha! I have tied you, old man! They went back and forth for quite a while as did our swiveling heads as we watched each one eat yet another meatball. I think they both were about ready to quit when my grandma decided she'd had enough of them trying to out eat each other and decided to take the tray of pork balls away!

Grandpa and grandma are now gone, and I miss them dearly. But grandma's pork balls live on because everyone, especially my dad, likes them so much. They are now a once a year treat - every Christmas Eve or Christmas. Ground ham and ground pork meatballs cooked in a sauce of brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and water.

Pork Ball Tradition also means that along with the pork balls, one enjoys a cheese & cracker platter:
 This year: gruyere, smoked gouda, cheddar, and a goat gouda.

Also, one enjoys a veggie and dip platter:
This year: celery, cucumber, carrots, red pepper (not pictured) and Beau Monde Dip.

But the real star of this appetizer dinner is the ham & pork balls.

Grandma's Ham & Pork Balls

Meatballs:
1 lb ground ham*
1 & ½ lb ground pork
2 c bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1 c milk

Sauce:
1 c brown sugar
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
½ c water

Make meatballs by simply combining all ingredients in a large bowl. Gently mix together with hands. Form the meatballs - we use my cookie dough scoop so maybe a bit more than 1 inch round. Place the meatballs in a baking dish - we use a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Usually we need a second, smaller baking dish for the last 10 or so meatballs. We usually get about 50 meatballs. 

Make the sauce by mixing the sauce ingredients. Pour sauce over meatballs. Bake 325 for 1 hour, basting every so often.

*We always have to ask the meat counter to grind ham for us. The tubes of  pre-packaged ground ham are gross - they're more like shredded ham and kind of paste-like. Get fresh ham freshly ground. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Eve - Cookie Time!

Once again this year, we were busy in the kitchen, baking batches of holiday cookies. Thanks to my mom, things seemed a little easier this year than in years past. She was a big help with clean up and quality control.

This year's cookies are:

Top Row: Chocolate Dipped Crescents, Grandma's Orange Cookies
Second Row: Cinnamon Bun Swirl, Triple Ginger, Raspberry Shortbread
Third Row: Cherry-Almond Biscotti, Mint Chocolate Thumbprints, Lime Ice box Cookies
Bottom Row: Walnut Cups, Pizzelles

This year we tried three new to us cookies: my grandma's orange cookies, lime icebox, and the mint chocolate thumbprints. So far all three have been well received so it looks like they might make repeat appearances on the holiday cookie tray.

Except for the biscotti and pizzelles, which we made last, all the cookies were placed in plastic containers with wax paper between each layer and stored in the freezer. They seem to be just fine being frozen for 2-3 weeks.

I'm glad we finished baking early this year. It's been nice to be able to enjoy the cookies in the week before Christmas instead of constantly baking and cleaning.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Grandma's Orange Cookies

When I was a little girl, my grandma made these amazing Orange Cookies. Or at least I remember them being amazing. They were always one of my favorites. But then grandma stopped making them. Then my aunt stopped making them. I copied the recipe down, but somehow, they never made the final cut for the holiday cookie tray. They came close a couple times but lost out to Orange-Coconut Cookies and Biscotti All'arancia.
This year, I made them. No one got a vote. I just started making them. I handed my mom an orange and a grater and told her to start zesting. These are filled with the zest and juice from an orange. They smell so wonderfully citrusy.

A secret - this is an older recipe, from the 70's, and so, like many of my cookie recipes from when I was a child, it calls for shortening. That's one reason they always lost in the competition to make it on the cookie tray. SP gets twitchy if I bake cookies with shortening. To be fair, the recipe calls for shortening & butter, not all shortening or all butter flavored shortening, but he still twitches.

I think he forgot that these have shortening. Mom and I made these while he was at work. Later that night, after he tried one, I asked what he thought, and he said he really liked them. I got a little smile and he asked why I had "that look" on my face. I refused to tell him for fear he'd stop eating the cookies.

These turned out a bit taller/fatter than I recall but they still have great orange flavor. SP suggested that next time we substitute orange extract for the vanilla extract. The recipe calls for frosting the cookies with a frosting made with the zest and juice from a second orange, but my dad, my mom, SP, and I all voted down frosting on top because we all think cookies with frosting/glaze are a little too sugary-sweet.
I'll definitely make these again. They aren't exactly like I remember my grandma's orange cookies, but they're still darn tasty and darn easy to make.

Grandma's Orange Cookies

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp grated orange peel
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together flour & baking soda, set aside. Cream butter, shortening, and sugar. Add egg, zest, and juice. Blend in flour mixture and vanilla. Drop by spoonfuls (tablespoonfuls, or use a cookie scoop) on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Frosting: Mix 2 cups powdered sugar with the juice and zest from one large orange. Frost cooled cookies.

Makes 3-4 dozen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints

The holiday cookie baking continued this weekend. We tried another new to us cookie: Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints. The recipe is from a Fine Cooking Holiday Cookie magazine my brother bought me a few years ago. That's how long these have been bookmarked! Every year I look forward to a holiday chocolate-mint cookie or dessert. I'm still searching for the chocolate mint cookie that is exactly what I want in a chocolate mint cookie - but these come pretty darn close.
I might like them more if our peppermint extract hadn't been a little old. It seemed to have lost some of its scent and flavor. I added extra extract to the chocolate filling but even so, it's not quite as pepperminty as I'd like.
The dough is kind of crumbly, even after being refrigerated. Sometimes when I made the indentations, the sides cracked. I didn't bother with a pastry bag or piping the filling - I just used my baby spoon and spooned the mixture into the centers. I also didn't wait 30-40 minutes after making the filling to spoon it in. I did it right away.

My mom and SP like these a lot. I think these are good enough to make another appearance on the holiday cookie tray.

Recipe here.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lime Icebox Cookies

The cookie baking continues! This time, a new for us cookie: Lime Icebox Cookies. SP & I both like citrus a lot, so when we saw these in the December Food Network Magazine, we decided they'd be a great new cookie for this year's holiday baking. We made the dough Thursday night and let it chill overnight. I sliced and baked them on Friday.
The hardest part of making these is juicing and zesting all the limes! There's zest and juice in the cookie dough and then before slicing & baking, the logs are rolled in a mixture of regular granulated sugar, green sanding sugar, and more lime zest.
We did not get 84 cookies - not even close. Our logs were not 12 inches long. Frankly, that seems way too small. They're tiny as it is - just a one or two bite cookie. But yummy. Lots of lime flavor and the lime sugar on the edges adds extra sugary crunch and lime flavor.

I really like these - definitely a make again cookie.

Recipe here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BRGR, Revisited

This past weekend, we met a friend for dinner at BRGR at the Galleria. It was my second time there (first visit post here) but first time for everyone else.

I still really like BRGR. Going for dinner now that it has been open a few weeks was a lot different than lunch with my mom after just 1-2 weeks open. It was a lot more crowded for dinner. We used No Wait. We put our name on the list around 5 pm and had a 70 minute wait! Also, there were a lot of children. Way more than I am used to when dining out.

That being said, we all enjoyed our food and since we ordered different dishes than on my previous visit, I figured I'd write about them. No photos, though. I had only my cell phone and the lighting was pretty dim.

Appetizers:

Grilled Cheese Bites: provolone, applewood smoked bacon, truffle aioli, tomatoes, pickle chips on grilled Texas toast served with a side of tomato fondue. Oh my. Theses are delicious. It's a smallish grilled cheese sandwich cut into four triangles which are then stacked and skewered before being placed on a plate with a ramekin of tomato fondue. We got the aioli on the side. Definitely an order again appetizer.

Fried Zucchini & Portobello Mushrooms: served with smoked tomato aioli. These were good, but not the best fried zucchini I've ever enjoyed. My heart belongs to the fried zucchini at Downey's House. SP & I ended up dipping ours in the tomato fondue from the grilled cheese bites. The smoked tomato aioli was a tad spicy for me.

Meals:

I created my own grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, mushrooms, cheddar, and caramelized onions on brioche. I love caramelized onions. Salty and sweet and soft and just... oh so good. I wish we could make them at home but every time we've tried, we get them too dark in spots and not a uniform, soft, caramelized color.

SP created a bunless salmon burger with bacon and caramelized onions and I forget what else and really liked it.

Friend had the Fire in the Hole burger (jalapenos, guacamole, pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli, sriracha). He liked it, but said it was spicier than he expected. He drank a lot of water and ended up leaving behind 2 of the jalapenos!

Dessert:

SP & I shared a spiked Salty Caramel Shake: bourbon, caramel sauce, sea salt, vanilla bean. It was good, but a little bit sweet for me. Our server was nice enough to split it into 2 cups for us.

Friend had a Root Beer Float, which he enjoyed.

Our server was friendly, didn't rush us even though there was a long wait, took the initiative to split our shake for us. We found our food yummy. We're glad they use No Wait because at least 20 minutes of the wait was spent driving to the Galleria. And it's nice that they're in a mall because during the rest of the wait, we were able to wander through stores and also sit on some mall couches to pass the time.

  BRGR on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 15, 2014

Apple Pie

Mid-December is not really pie time, it's cookie time, but I discovered this post in my drafts folder. It's from Thanksgiving: Apple Pie. This pie is worth writing about - it's delicious. It's as good as, maybe better than, the peach pie we make every year around Labor Day. But a bit easier - no lattice crust!
This was our second year making apple pie for Thanksgiving. For me, apple pie is so much tastier and so much more satisfying than pumpkin pie. Just like last year, we followed the recipe in Baking Illustrated.
We followed the entire recipe in Baking Illustrated this year - not just for the filling. We made the crust recipe as well. Last year we used the flaky, pastry crust recipe from Joy of Cooking. It's an excellent crust recipe, but this one just might be better.
Look at that crust! The structural integrity! Even when the apples came cascading out, that top crust stayed put! It was a thicker crust than the crust we get out of the Joy of Cooking recipe. I love crust, so that's a big plus for me. But they are very similar recipes. They both use butter & shortening.
The apples are a mix of Granny Smith and McIntosh. They're mixed with lemon juice & zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
I sort of wish the apple pie had been a miserable disaster. It's so good that now we are forever stuck making two pies at Thanksgiving. But that's OK. It's totally worth it.

Recipe can be found here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. I've had a cold for 3.5 weeks. I am finally starting to be less congested in my nose. I'm using fewer tissues each day, but still more than usual. I am hoping this is my cold for the winter season, but something tells me I'll have at least one more 3-4 week long sickness before spring.

2. Our two dinner meals this week:
  • breaded pork chops, mustard roasted potatoes, and steamed green beans 
  • scrambled eggs with ham and colby cheese on toasted English muffins
3. Last weekend we started the Holiday Cookie Baking! We made my mom's favorite: Chocolate Dipped Crescents. SP & I sampled a few, I gave a dozen or so to mom, and the rest are in the freezer. These freeze well, so I'm OK making them early.

4. Tonight is the finale of Gracepoint. The people behind the show keep saying the killer will be different from the killer in the original (Broadchurch) but so far, everything has been exactly the same, so I'm doubting the killer will be different. I am wondering if I will cry like I did at the end of Broadchurch.

5. We've been watching The Newsroom and this Sunday is the final episode. I'll be sad to see it end. I always like Aaron Sorkin shows - I love his rapid-fire dialogue and that he doesn't dumb things down. However, I do feel as if this final 6 episode season has been not as good as the previous ones.

6. We continue to feel a bit guilty at laughing at Getting On. Some of the stuff they say/do... Maybe we'll finally be able to finish OITNB since we're caught up on our shows - even The Walking Dead which usually ends up stacked up and waiting for a holiday week binge. Plus, most shows are done with new episodes for a while.

7. We're looking forward to winter TV - Downton Abbey, Justified, The Americans. I can't wait to see how it ends for Raylan & Boyd!

8. This weekend and next week will involve lots of baking. I don't think we'll make as many cookies as usual, but I do have a list and we'll work our way through it. If some cookies remain unbaked, well, that's that. It's supposed to be fun, not a chore.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cucumber Crab Appetizers

My mom made this appetizer for Thanksgiving, but it'd be great at any holiday, or in the summer at a picnic. It's very simple and tasty. Cucumber Rounds Topped with Crab Salad. That's what I'm going to call these. She didn't follow a recipe, and really, you don't have to. You can make any kind of crab salad you like and plop a spoonful on top a cucumber round. Crunchy, crabby - yum!
Basic idea:

Use a regular, fat cucumber, not a skinny English cucumber. Wash it. You can peel it if you want. You can peel stripes if you want. Or leave it be. Slice it into rounds. Not too thick because you don't want too much cucumber crunch in each bite, but not too thin because you don't want it so thin that when you pick the round up it droops and spills your crab onto your lap.

Make your desired crab salad. Use any kind of crab you like. Small cans of tiny crab, lumps of jumbo crab, whatever. Add whatever seasoning you like. Mom kept it simple with a little mayo, salt & pepper, a tiny bit of very finely chopped shallot, and a squeeze of lemon. Mom forgot the chives. I'd add some lemon zest. You could add some celery, but again, very, very finely diced. You don't want huge chunks.

Dollop the crab salad on top each round and enjoy.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Braddock's Pittsburgh Brasserie

A couple of weeks ago, we finally checked out Braddock's in the Renaissance Hotel. Our reservations were for 5 pm after we saw Newsies, which was a fantastic show. We were seated right away and were able to peek out at the windows area at the wedding in the lobby area.
I ordered a Braddock's Smash (Maker's Mark, fresh sours, seasonal berries, bitters) and SP had a Sazerac (Templeton Rye, simple syrup, bitters, absinthe). I don't care for Sazerac cocktails but SP really likes them. I really enjoyed my Smash. It had a nice berry flavor and a tiny hint of sour flavor.
Warm, crusty bread served with butter with salt on top. We must have been hungry because we quickly devoured the bread.
We shared the Beet & Goat Cheese Salad (fried goat cheese, pistachios, roasted beets, seasonal greens, sherry-shallot vinaigrette). Our server offered to split the salad onto two plates for us, which was nice & much appreciated. The fried goat cheese was yummy if a bit more crumbly than other fried goat cheese I have eaten. Crisp greens, just enough vinaigrette. I thought the roasted beet would be mixed in with the greens but it was actually thin slices of roasted beet under the greens. It was a bit too much beet for me, but then again, I'm not a huge roasted beet fan. SP likes them and enjoyed this presentation.
We also shared Braised Short Rib Pierogies (creamed leeks). The creamed leeks are under the 3 huge pierogie.
These were so darn delicious. Huge, homemade pierogie filled with tender shredded short rib. My favorite part of the meal.
SP ordered Roasted Tomato Bisque (bacon lardons, basil oil). This was a very tasty tomato soup and the bacon lardons added a nice, unusual flavor, in my opinion, since I do not think we've ever had a tomato soup with a bacon garnish.
Another shared dish: Bacon Wrapped Shrimp & Grits. OK, this might have been even more delicious than the pierogies. It's hard to choose! Three huge shrimp wrapped with bacon in a BBQ sauce with cheesy grits. I'm pretty sure the grits had a bit of bacon flavor, too - there was something in the grits that kept us eating and eating and eating and then we had a spoon war over the final scoops.
Our grits are in a separate jar because the chef said there was some garlic in them and they were being very, very careful of garlic after I asked about it in a couple of dishes. The grits passed my sight, smell, and taste tests, which means there wasn't enough to bother my stomach, just enough to add some flavor. I have had overly-garlicked grits in the past, which is why I asked.
For his entree, SP chose Seared Scallops (roasted red pepper polenta and sweet corn puree). Four large scallops, nicely seared, atop the polenta with corn puree on the side. His comment was 'yum' and he quickly ate it all.
For my entree, I chose a small portion of Lobster Gnocchi (peas, asparagus, parmesan cream sauce). The chef made it without garlic. Truthfully, by this point, I was not very hungry. The gnocchi were delicious. The cream sauce, my gosh, so rich and buttery and cheesy and decadent. The lobster was real lobster and there was a generous portion of it. It was good if a tad over cooked for my taste (I found it a wee bit chewy). I was only able to eat half of my half order. I took the rest home and while the leftovers were good, it didn't re-heat especially well (I removed the lobster and re-heated the sauce and gnocchi for about 10 minutes).

We did not have room for dessert. Plus, it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, so we had lots of pumpkin pie and apple pie at home.

Our server was terrific. He and the chef did an excellent job of checking on garlic and checking with me. We enjoyed all of our food, in particular the pierogies and shrimp & grits. I liked the atmosphere and the tables were nicely spaced. By the time we left, the restaurant had filled up but we didn't notice any increase in noise level from when we arrived nor did we have to squeeze between people to leave.

It's definitely a pricier place, but it was worth it. We'll definitely be back.

Braddock's American Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

1. One of this week's dinners is Chicken Noodle Soup. I'm not sure what SP did this time, but it's extra delicious.

2. Our other dinner is leftover Thanksgiving food. After we finished the stuffing and green beans mom sent home with us, we bought ingredients to make more stuffing and bought more green beans. I'm also eating the turkey for lunch.

3. The apple and pumpkin pies are gone and now I have no dessert but I suppose that is a good thing. Last week was a lot of pizza and pasta before Thanksgiving and then a big dinner out after Thanksgiving. I really don't want my belt to be set on a fatter notch than last week. Especially with Christmas Cookie season here!

4. I am still thinking about which cookies to bake this year. We do not have a lot of free time, so I'm thinking there might not be much baking. Then again, as usual, everyone has cast a vote for their favorite, and the list is already at 5 kinds. Mom wants crescents. Dad wants candy canes. Brother wants ischl tartlets and triple ginger. SP wants raspberry shortbread. I don't like to disappoint people. I like the cinnamon cookies and biscotti. SIL likes pizzelles. That's 8 kinds.

5. Mom and I went shopping yesterday. Again. And once again, I bought stuff for myself. I have now bought all my presents for me from SP. He doesn't have to do any shopping. I think he's happy (no shopping) but also sad because there won't be anything under the tree from him for me to unwrap.

6. The Friday after Thanksgiving, we decorated for the holidays. We're getting better at it. It used to take an entire day but we're starting to get an efficient system developed and now it takes only about 4 hours including lunch and bathroom breaks. After we finished, it was nice to curl up on the couch with the tree lights on and the holiday candles lit and catch up on TV.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bourbon Orange Cranberry Sauce

Growing up, my family's idea of cranberry relish was to open a can and plop out a jiggling cylinder which was then sliced into rounds. It was never one of my favorite side dishes and as we got older, it disappeared from the holiday table. Then I met SP. He and his family really like cranberry sauce - but not from a can. Homemade. Several years ago, my parents tried SP's homemade cranberry sauce and really liked it. Now it's SP's job to make the cranberry sauce (and slice the turkey). The problem is, he does it a little different every year, so he couldn't remember what he had done in the years that my parents ate and liked it. So he did some research and decided to try this version: Bourbon Orange Cranberry Sauce.

He made some adjustments, like less sugar and more spice plus orange juice and a bit of vanilla, which, in year's past, has been a nice additional flavor in cranberry sauce. I like this version. My dad loved it. My mom is like me - it's good for cranberry sauce but still not our favorite thing on the table and if it wasn't there, we wouldn't miss it. Well, I might miss this version. Turns out I kinda really like cranberries tarted up with sugar and spice and everything nice (citrus and vanilla). And booze.

SP's version:
  • 1 lb cranberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 orange - zest and juice
  • about 1/4 cup whiskey/bourbon (we used a few splashes more than 1/4 cup to use up the last bit in the bottle)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 whole cloves
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Place all ingredients except vanilla in saucepan and simmer until cranberries pop and the liquid is reduced, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla. Cool and refrigerate.

Monday, December 1, 2014

So Much Delicious Food

This year, we celebrated Thanksgiving with my parents at their place. It was their first holiday in Pittsburgh since moving back this past fall after being gone for 20 years. After cooking for 16 people at our place last year, it was very nice to simply show up and be fed. We were responsible for dessert. Mom handled the rest. Even all the clean up.

This year, our celebratory beverage was Chandon sparkling rose, which dad popped open as soon as we arrived. Shortly after, mom put out some appetizers, including grapes and cheese.
Around 5:30 pm, SP was called into the kitchen. He was in charge of carving. Mom says dad can't carve but she likes SP's carving skills! That was OK with dad. He and I got to continue talking about the latest Harry Bosch book, which we both read during Thanksgiving week. 
 SP carved up the nearly 18 pound turkey (yes, 18 lbs for 4 people). It was delicious, and mom sent us home with lots of turkey leftovers.
 Mom blanched and sauteed some Brussels sprouts for SP. They were seasoned with salt and lemon zest:
 My family's favorite (for the past 4-5 years) Green Beans & Mushrooms sauteed with shallot & sherry:
 Stuffing! My favorite part of Thanksgiving. Celery, onion, bread cubes, and sausage with poultry seasoning. Mom forgot the nutmeg this year! That was my grandma's "secret ingredient." The stuffing was still delicious, even without nutmeg.
 Dad likes his stuffing cooked in the turkey. I like mine cooked in a casserole dish because you get lots of crispy bits. So mom does both.
 SP and I made pumpkin pie for dessert. We always make the filling recipe on the Libby's can with a bit of extra cinnamon. 
 We briefly, very briefly, considered cheating with a store bought frozen pie crust, but in the end, we made the Flaky Pie Crust from Joy of Cooking.
 It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without SP and my dad piling on the whipped cream:
There also was apple pie and cranberries, but more on those later.

It was a relaxing and delicious and laughter filled day. We spent an hour passing around the phone, taking turns talking to each member of the Georgia family. They went for a hike in the mountains and then were going over to a friend's house for dinner. It was great to talk to my brother and his wife and kids.

I hope your holiday was as lovely as ours was.