It's all champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

I spent last weekend with Maddy at her new apartment.  In a misplaced but well-meaning attempt at thrift she had purchased a stovetop percolator ($3) and googled instructions for use ("you will need coarsely ground coffee, a heat source, and total disrespect for the bean").  Remembering the days when this blue Kitchenaid stand mixer was the most expensive thing I owned besides my car, I promptly bought her a French press.  Her boyfriend John thanked me profusely.  Since he is the coffee drinker in the household he was the sole victim of the percolator brew which somehow managed to be simultaneously bitter and watery.

Happy 25th birthday, mixer!

Happy 25th birthday, mixer!

I also brought her some extra baking pans, ramen, palm sugar and Korean drinking vinegar.  And, after hearing that she had flipped pancakes with tongs that morning, a spatula.  

Old cat, up to her old tricks.

Old cat, up to her old tricks.

Bon Appetit hat trick

I think you only need three dishes to call it a hat trick, and this month's issue has been a gold mine.  I am already making a second round of charred broccoli with peanuts.  You can find nutritional yeast at most Whole Foods or natural grocery stores.  When you aren't making this recipe it makes a good popcorn topping.  Pictured below is chickpeas and chard with poached eggs.  I duded it up with some avocado and fresh pasta.  I selfishly took the more beautiful egg for my plate.  I substituted kale for the Swiss chard and I made my own baharat.  That spice hoarding has finally paid off.  Needless to say, I am resubscribed and got Maddy a gift subscription for only $5.

Tomorrow I will be getting some black radishes in the CSA--I am disappointed to hear they are white inside and have a "spicy bite."  I think I accidentally ordered a double share.  Maybe it's time for some kimchi.

Nothing says lovin' like something from the oven.....

The never ending CSA box was inspiration for several meals this week.  Why did I double the parsnips and portobello shares?  I feel better about that decision after finding recipes that aren't of the "roast vegetable" variety.  Even though these parsnip biscuits are no match for my now go-to recipe, they are an innovative way to use up a parsnip or two.  I served them with some posole that I rescued from the deep freezer.  The remainder became parsnip gnocchi.  Dirt Candy's ridiculously complex recipe for the restaurant dish can be found here--just follow the directions for the parsnip gnocchi.  Full disclosure, I did not roast them with the other root vegetables--just the shallots and onions.  Be careful when adding the flour to form the gnocchi--the dough remained fairly sticky.  I let them hang out in the refrigerator overnight after I did the boiling part (carefully lubricated with olive oil).  The next night for dinner I sautéed with a little butter and olive oil to brown a bit on each side.  I removed them to a plate and kept warm while I reduced some heavy cream in the sauté pan with fresh nutmeg and black pepper.  They were delicious enough to warrant another box of parsnips.  The portobellos became portobello frites--one of those dishes where you truly "don't miss the meat."  Here is a pro-tip for you, and an hallelujah moment for anybody who has been on a quest for the perfect "oven fry."  Proceed with the frites as directed in the recipe up to the point where you have cut them into wedges.  Crank oven temp to 425 F and liberally oil two sheet pans with olive oil.  Slide the potato wedges through the oil, turning to coat both sides.  Don't be shy with salt and pepper.  Cook ~10-15 min. until browned on one side , then flip and brown the other side.  Don't crowd the sheets; the potatoes will steam instead of browning.  This also worked well with some waxy potatoes, just a little different texturally but still crispy on the outside.  I subbed sherry for the red wine in the portobello sauce and added a little heavy cream--an improvement in my estimation.

That girl's a super freekeh.

Strangely light work week allowed for a lot of cooking, starting with this recipe from Bon Appetit for Freekeh Paella with Clams and Almond Aioli.  Sophie, of course, went clam-less, but if it were up to me I would have doubled the clams or perhaps added some shrimp.  I did double the chorizo.  I initially goofed and bought fresh chorizo which will be repurposed in breakfast tacos, and I used cracked freekeh which cooks in about half the time.  The amount of freekeh could probably be reduced if you don't double the protein.  The almond aioli was absolutely delicious.   I would make it again and serve as a straight up dip--albeit not as creamy a an egg-based aioli.  It would be a stellar accompaniment to moules-frites as well.

A shout out to the PescaDeli who observed me waiting to buy clams and chorizo and allowed me to enter 15 min prior to opening time, and to Fresh Baguette who provided my al fresco coffee and croissant.  I biked over after Crossfit and sat outside at a sunny table enjoying coffee and pastry and pretending I was in the French Alps.  

Dango

Mitarashi dango is a Japanese sweet dumpling that Sophie and friends purchase ($4/dozen dumplings) frequently.  We have been meaning to make them at home, and this past weekend we did.  Every recipe on the internet assured us that the proper consistency for the dough was "soft, like an earlobe."  Katakuriko is cornstarch.  Sophie was concerned that we didn't make the sauce thick enough, but between the 5 of us we ate the entire batch.  If you have a hankering for a slightly sweet dough ball that will make you feel bloated and full for hours, look no further.  The traditional accompaniment is green tea--to help maintain consciousness.  

The "j" is silent.

The "j" is silent.

Deju Vu Polar Vortex

We had our first official snowfall on Tuesday--3-4" of rush hour powder.  Thankfully I was not scheduled to work.  I had to walk the bike home from Crossfit due to the road conditions.  Sophie spent the day sledding, and I shoveled snow and made cinnamon rolls using this recipe I found on the back of the pearl sugar box:

Swedish Cinnamon Rolls

2 envelopes dry yeast

3(!)sticks butter

2 cups milk

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

6 cups flour (I used a 50/50 mix of white whole wheat and all purpose)

Filling:

4 TBS softened butter

1 cup sugar mixed with 1 TBS ground cinnamon

Glazing

1 egg, beaten

pearl sugar

Melt butter.  Add milk and heat til lukewarm. Put yeast in a large mixing bowl and whisk in butter/milk mixture.  Add sugar, salt, and half the flour.  Continue working in the flour, kneading til smooth and elastic.  Place in a warm location and allow to rise ~40 minutes.  Divide dough in half, rolling each piece into a square ~1/3" thick.  Spread with softened butter and cinnamon sugar.  Roll into a log and cut each log into 12 pieces.  Place onto a greased baking sheet and allow to rise for ~20 min.  Preheat oven to 425F.  Brush buns with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar.  Bake until golden brown ~20-30 min.

These were super delicious fresh out of the oven and only slightly less delicious a day later.  I made Ian take most of them to work.  A photo is here.

Luckily there will be a box of produce on my doorstep tomorrow morning that I paid way too much money for to allow it to go to waste.  We are members of From the Farmer, a delivery service that allows you to customize your products (i.e. please, no more kale).  I also discovered Tessemae's dressings--a Maryland product that is blessedly sugar-free and truly the best "store-bought" dressing I've ever tasted.  

Bon Appetit magazine has really come through for me this week with recipes like "Weekday Porchetta," Vadouvan roasted carrots, and energy bars.  For the energy bars I just combined dried apricots and cranberries in the food processor with a little honey and water until I had a thickish paste, then mixed in sesame seeds and pepitas--seasoned with a little cinnamon and salt.  Press into a greased pan, bake at 350F for 20 min.   Cool completely and cut into bars.  I am thinking that I just need to renew that subscription.  No crazy resolutions here, just hoping for inspiration to keep me in the kitchen and off the sofa surfing for another series to binge watch.

A few of our favorite things.

For those times you don't want a beer and don't want to muddle or dash--I highly recommend the Bittermilk cocktail mixer compounds.  They won our family Old Fashioned blind taste off over Thanksgiving, and I just discovered the existence of all the other flavors on their website along with recipes.  The Jack Rudy bourbon cherries elevate even the non-alcoholic beverage--Sophie enjoyed recently without intoxication.  The Owl's Brew I am reserving judgement as I thought the coconut flavor (not pictured) a wee bit too sweet.

The lazy man's cocktail, just pour, mix and sip.

The lazy man's cocktail, just pour, mix and sip.

My new favorite TV show is Transparent, and having binge-watched the entire season this past week I am thankful that season two is slated to air in 2015.  I read "Station Eleven" and watched "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", both cautionary post-apocalyptic tales that make one glad for electricity and modern medicine.

I have renewed love for Bon Appetit magazine, and should just re-subscribe.  I had written a nice paragraph about all the recipes I have made from the January issue, but the internet ate it.  You will have to wait to hear about my "weekday porchetta."

We went to a "miniatures" art exhibit yesterday at the Strathmore.  Disappointingly, it was not tiny foods/dollhouse furnishings, but we were agog at some of the teeny paintings (some no bigger than a postage stamp).  We all coveted the tiny "Crib" an "enviresponsible shelter" for people who have $60,000 to drop on a structure without a damn bathroom!  Post museum, we had a snack and drinks at Denizen's Brewing Company--the beer garden has great summer potential.   

Any variation of a Negroni.

Any variation of a Negroni.

A toast.

Welcome 2015--ushered in with punch and the company of a few good friends.  I got Ian "Death & Co." for Christmas, and in a bizarre twist on New Year's Resolutions we have decided to make every one of the 500 recipes therein.  Just kidding.  We would have to build a bigger bar.  The "Evil Dead Punch" contained 4 different alcohols, not to mention the simple syrups/bitters/juices.  Once we collected all the ingredients, it was surprisingly easy to mix and enjoy.

The book is a valuable reference and explains the ingredients instead of assuming you know your Bonal Gentian-Quina from a Cocchi Americano.  I did substitute Bulleit rye (instead of infusing Old Overholt with chamomile) and made a perfectly drinkable La Dolce Vita (rye-St. Germaine-Campari).  It made the IKEA furniture construction nearly painless and scored one for the "try new things" resolution.

IKEA bar cart, simple enough to build without a drink in hand.

IKEA bar cart, simple enough to build without a drink in hand.

Behold the power of cheese.....

Here's the simple recipe for filling your house with holiday joy and your belly with goodness:

Cheese Fondue (serves 4 people dinner as main course with leftovers)

2 cups dry white wine

1.5 to 2 lb. grated cheese (I use Gruyere, Emmental, Appenzeller)--I spent a lot of money on cheese but rationalized it's dinner for 4 people and then some.

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

2 TBS. cornstarch mixed with one TBS. cold water to form a slurry

Dippers: we used bread, broccoli and apples--tiny potatoes have been a hit in the past as well

Bring wine to a simmer in fondue pot along with the garlic.  Gradually stir in the cheese a handful at a time until melted.  Add the cornstarch slurry and cook until thickened, about 5 min.  Do not boil.  Adjust consistency with more wine as needed....for the fondue or the cook.

The Farm

Thanks to the hospitality of our section chief, the "office" holiday party had a decidedly bucolic feel this year.  Having spent time with her and her alpaca, it came as no surprise to see her farmstead brimming with happy chickens, pigs and goats.  She has plans for a cow and a calf next year, and when her currently pregnant goats give birth they will be in the most competent of hands.  We collected eggs, fed the goats, scratched the pigs and enjoyed the country living the way that only people who don't actually live in the country can.

There was plenty of food and holiday cheer, sorely needed after a year of significant change in our department.  The midwifery service continues to grow, and one of my partners missed the party, exhausted after catching 5 babies the previous day (4 of them in the span of ~1 hour)!

I caught my last two babies of 2014 yesterday, gorgeous baby boys with a combined weight of nearly 18 lb.  Tonight Ian and I will celebrate our 18th anniversary at Little Serow, and we have more fondue lined up for New Year's Eve. Then it's all kale all the time until February.

Traditions

We only have a few more years to cement the Christmas traditions into our children's memory banks, so we continue to pull out all the stops.  Sophie still writes a list, with an increasing slant towards manga and video games;  I still fill their stockings, and we always have monkey bread, grapefruit and bacon 'n' eggs.  Sophie and Ian's eggs are cooked into submission, and Maddy has finally joined the properly cooked egg bandwagon.  People are allowed to pick at the monkey bread, but nobody is forced to eat a full meal prior to present time.

2014 is the second year I have knit a hat for the first Christmas baby delivered by my practice, and it's a tradition I will continue.  Gratifying to knit for a tiny person.  This year it was the elfin hat pattern from Purlbee, ingeniously constructed from yarn I already had in my stash.

DSC_2796.jpg

This year we celebrated a few days early so Maddy can spend Christmas day with her dad, and travel to Asheville for the Lindy Focus on the 26th.  Her big present will be a trip to Ikea to outfit her new apartment with furnishings.  There was the requisite picture of the girls in front of the tree.  We were insistent on Makoa's presence because we aren't sure she will be around for Christmas #18.  Cooper with his fat, sleek self has lives to spare.

DSC_2773.jpg

Thanksgiving 2014 Dinner

Here's a picture of us before we got down to business.  The star of the show was the bacon shallot gravy.  It improved everything it came in contact with.  For the sake of all that is holy, you do not need to make 5 lb. of sweet potatoes.  I'm talking to you, 2015 Ginny.  But definitely use Chinese 5 spice and pistachios in the topping.  Also, try not to buy your ham at Costco, unless you have plans for all the leftovers.  Feeding ham to your family every day for a week is not a "plan."

Blurry but happy.

Blurry but happy.

Maddy and John made an excellent horseradish cream to accompany the roast--it involved heavy cream, Greek yogurt, scallions and lots of freshly grated horseradish.  It will be repeated.  Per Maddy's request we did Momofuku cauliflower and the meringue topped sweet potatoes.  Unlikely to make it onto next year's roster were the roasted sunchokes with balsamic and rosemary.  Tasty, not outstanding, and potentially using valuable stomach real estate that you should fill with mashed potatoes instead.  

Die, ham, die.  We are tired of you.

Die, ham, die.  We are tired of you.

Speaking of mashed potatoes--Yukon golds, more butter than cream, plenty of salt.  That is all.     

Sam was right about a salad.  Nobody needs it, and nobody should eat raw parsnips even if they are thinly shaved.  Not a keeper.

A dinner so epic, I have to bring it to you in installments....

This was the first year I consciously organized an appetizer course, even though Sam Sifton tells you not to.  He does approve of oysters on the half shell, and I will repeat next year but only after carefully inspecting the hinge area of each mollusk.  I had at least 6 that defied my efforts to pry them open.  We served them with champagne, lemon and a mignonette (Sifton says mignonette is passé but he can suck it).

Thank goodness for my sous chefs, Maddy, Sophie, John and Shirley who helped make the meal prep less work, and provided comic relief as needed (see last photo in post).

I think even Sam would approve of the eggplant dip pre-meal--light, flavorful and definitely not a gut-bomb.  Thanksgiving day, I was busy shucking oysters, but I can tell you it makes a decent breakfast on Black Friday after a run to the local yarn store.

We braved a Wednesday afternoon Whole Foods run for the oysters and the olives, surprisingly painless.  Ian lobbied for butter pecan ice cream "Maddy wants it" instead of vanilla and I shut him down immediately.  The poor, poor seafood department employees had to deal with folks trying to coordinate their holiday oyster orders, "can we come in Thanksgiving day and you can have them all shucked and ready to go?"  When I said I just wanted 30 oysters and that I would shuck them myself they gave me a couple for free.  I'm hoping that this gives me future street cred with said department.

Remember the last time you were happy?

The worst thing that happened to me today was having to bring the groceries inside, and the trip to Costco to get the groceries.  I'm not dealing with 5' of snow that is going to melt and cause flooding, my kids will be home for the holiday, and I didn't have to think twice about filling my cart with food.

Black decorating sugar, not mouse droppings.

Black decorating sugar, not mouse droppings.

I will fondly remember making pretzels with Sophie for distribution to her friends;   (People loved them, I should bring food in again); discussing the composition of mincemeat  (like spicy dried fruit) with Maddy and not regretting my decision to use paper plates for the Thanksgiving dessert course.  In the coming week the Christmas tree will be erected, the persimmon tree harvested, and if I'm lucky, I could deliver a new member to somebody's family tree on my call shift. 

The worst thing that happened to me yesterday was having to look into my young patient's eyes and tell her that her baby's heart had stopped a mere three weeks before her due date.  To tell her partner that, "Yes, that means your baby is dead," and to call her mother and repeat these words because I was the only one in the room capable of speech.

The shift from happiest job in the world to the saddest in the blink of an eye, and I am forever connected to this woman and her loss.  Her life changed in that moment, always divided into "before" and "after."  What, if anything, will bring her joy this holiday season?  

Reminding us all to be thankful if the last time we felt happy can be measured in minutes.

Happy Belated Pepero Day!

I went to Safeway with every intention of buying the ingredients for several winter salads featured in today's Washington Post food section.  Then I remembered throwing out a partially used bag of kale just two days ago.  The savoy cabbage went into a soup instead.

Right before I spilled that mug of hot cider.

Right before I spilled that mug of hot cider.

Anticipating the upcoming onslaught of pumpkin spice everything, I baked a lavender lemon bundt cake.  I used the lemon Maddy gave me.  The cake is good in the way a tender poundcake should be, but the lavender flavor is lost.  Maybe I won't use lemon extract next time.  Maybe it's related to the age of my lavender which I only recently discovered during the spice cabinet purge.  Sophie said, "It's really good. It's mostly lemony but I'm still getting lavender."

Ian returned bearing many Korean socks, a rainbow stack of felt and cheap earrings.  He leaves again for San Antonio in short order.  The only thing I really wish he could bring back is ice cream from Lick.  Coconut and avocado curd anyone?   Avocados were a dollar a piece today, maybe I can find a recipe on the www.

I also bought the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit  which I will save for reading during my call shift Friday night.  My last shift on labor and delivery was rewarding early on, deteriorating in the last 30 minutes and leaving me emotionally exhausted and angry.  I'm hoping articles on perfect mashed potatoes and left-over strategies will be calming and inspiring.  

 

Subliminally pumpkin spice Bundt.

Subliminally pumpkin spice Bundt.

Highlights of the Week

A short post of some things that happened that we can look back on fondly:

Sophie: reading the Odyssey, finding these tights on sammydress, trying "miracle berries"

Maddy: creating awesome art like it's nothing, DJ'ing The Steam Tunnel, defiant zip-lock bag usage.

Ian: surviving 24 hour trip to Seoul, purchase of many, many cute Korean socks, appropriate documentation of trip on photostream.

Ginny: knitting this hat for Sophie, organizing my spice cabinet(s), learning the rope climb in time to crush the partner WOD at Tough Temple

Maddy wants you to know she did this with substandard tools.

Maddy wants you to know she did this with substandard tools.

Tonight it's fried chicken and onion rings because I am too lazy to put away the deep fryer from last week.  I've watched a lot of TV this week, currently burning through The Bletchley Circle, and Sophie and I are chipping away at the most recent season of Portlandia.

Ink drawing, freehand.

Ink drawing, freehand.

Things I should have been doing this week instead of watching TV: running, rescheduling dental appointments, not eating Halloween candy.  The cross-country banquet is tomorrow.  I organized it, but not without a huge amount of help from a senior mom.  I'm looking forward to it as well as looking forward to it being over.  Ian comes home late Sunday, but hopefully early enough for Sophie and I to squee over all the Korean treasures he will be bringing back.

My preferred medium, fried dough.

My preferred medium, fried dough.

A Most Excellent Surprise

Maddy and her friend John had a spontaneous visit this weekend.  We surprised Sophie by having John (who she hadn't met yet) pose as a church goer collecting extra Halloween candy.  The last time we surprised Sophie with a visit from Maddy was Christmas of 2010 when she arrived at the house bearing a stack of Twinkies.  The Lees like sugar-associated pranks.  One of the first things Maddy said when she arrived yesterday was, "This kitchen is so clean."  Her kitchen apparently sets the bar pretty low these days.  She also has a passive-aggressive roommate that wouldn't allow her to open a new jar of jam until the current jars were finished.  The same guy forbids zip-lock bags.  She's moving in December.

I had lured her with promises of poke and Spam musubi.  

Unfortunately I only get to keep the lemon.

Unfortunately I only get to keep the lemon.

We had a big vegetable curry, roasted carrots and a delicious winter cocktail: vieux carre.  This is a cocktail I really enjoy at home--easy to construct provided you have the more obscure ingredients and one I wouldn't order in a restaurant because I would be afraid of mispronouncing it.  I'm pretty sure it's the only reason to buy a bottle of Benedictine.

We watched several episodes of "Cutthroat Kitchen."  One of the challenges was making a cupcake in a microwave.  We immediately thought of mug cakes which are having a moment.  I'm sure there are hundreds of dedicated Pintrest boards and somebody somewhere is having mug cakes at their wedding.

Maddy has been asked to contribute artwork to a Charlottesville publication, stay tuned for updates.  She made the mug sitting next to the lemon, but I am pretty sure her preferred medium is pumpkins.

not a cake

not a cake

Homecoming 2014

That dress we picked out at the end of the summer "just in case" was perfect for Homecoming. Sophie and some of her girlfriends enjoyed an Italian dinner prior to their fashionably late arrival at the dance.

This year she wanted to make sure you could "see that she was wearing make-up," wore high heels, and actually danced.  

The dapper gentlemen is Sophie's childhood friend, Logan who was in town with his parents who ran the Army Ten-Miler with us on Sunday.  He braved the dance with this gaggle of girls.  Sophie got home at 11 p.m., and we were already in bed.  I had a great race the next morning running a 1:15:42 and helping our master's women team to their 4th consecutive victory.  We celebrated with a late brunch at Le Diplomate where we conquered a seafood tower and a slab of foie gras with ease.

Here is an unrelated photo of the recent lunar eclipse/blood moon.  We woke Sophie up to watch, and she came out, looked at the sky for approximately 2 seconds and returned to bed.