Monthly Archives: November 2011

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6:27 pm: I just ate one slice of pumpkin pie (awesome!) and one slice of the apple pie (phenomenal). Both were nice and spicy, the way I like them. I was told the carrot cake was delicious, and my uncle swears that the hideous looking pie tasted good too. I doubt I'm as stuffed as a good portion of the American population, because I can't eat that much at one time, but I'm definitely ready for a food coma!

And now, dear readers, if you made it this far, I am thankful for my friends, my family...and most importantly that I was able to pull off this dinner :)

See you next week, when I'm back to my old habits in the kitchen (cooking for 3, and not 8). Good night, and Happy Thanksgiving!  I'll post pictures when I wake up tomorrow. If I remember :P 

5:25 pm: I don't mean to be crude, but in this occasion I feel it is necessary. Children, look away.

I made Thanksgiving my bitch.

Sorry mom, dad, papa....but it's true. I absolutely rocked everything. We ate at a reasonable hour, everything tasted awesome, and while it wasn't all hot, nothing was cold. I'm so proud of myself for making everything and getting it on the table without ruining anything (I did put my aunt's sweet potatoes on the stove, not realizing the burner was on...but nobody said they were burnt!). Now all that's left is to eat the desserts!

Stress level: Nonexistent (wine and tryptophan work wonders) 

3:45 pm: crunch time! Turkey is out. Making green beans and gravy, and then we gotta heat everything else up! Eek!

Stress level: moderate

2:25 pm: Ugh. I'm really tired. I think waking up so early was a bad plan. Anywho, all the apps are done (minus the shrimp cocktail) and all the desserts are done! All I have to do is make the gravy, green beans. and somehow magically serve everything hot. Time to check the turkey!

Stress level: moderate (sleepy) 

1:35 pm: The popcorn was a big hit! Everyone was surprised with how much popcorn the popper made.

And the finished product is even better....

Yum! Smoked paprika (I'll be putting this one everything) and shredded gouda. Interesting, and addicting.

Stress level: still very low! Hooray!!!

12:45 pm: The curry dip is finished and in the fridge, and it tasted pretty good! It was so easy too, although I may have to adapt it to use less mayonaise if I plan on making it again or posting the recipe. My grandpa's wife (we like this one!!!) is making the salad for me, and I'm about to start the popcorn! That leaves the shrimp, and the appetizers are finished.

I also forgot to mention that we are using the hood of my mom's car as our second fridge, because there isn't any room in ours. So we just throw the stuffing, veggies, etc, outside to keep cool. Does anyone else have to do this?

Stress level: surprisingly very low

12:00 pm: Well, the turkey is finally in the oven. The carrot cake is frosted, the pies are defrosting, and the spinach and artichoke dip is in the crockpot! I cut up the vegetables for the curry dip, perhaps I'll make that next.

From left to right: Carrot cake for Papa, failed apple pie, good apple pie, my very first pumpkin pie!

10:00 am: Sweet potatoes are cooling on the counter, and I just had a conversation with my mother about tree nuts. I guess I need an epi pen, because according to my aunt...I could die. So we'll be avoiding the pecans in addition to the walnuts this year, which puts the sweet potatoes in the "don't eat" category. :(

Turkey status: defrosting in the sink. It'll go in the oven soon, and I'm going to make the frosting for the carrot cake and start on some of the appetizers while that's cooking.

Stress level: mild

8:40 am: So I guess I was a little overzealous in waking up so early. Apparently our turkey is little (only 12 pounds) so we don't need to put it in for a few hours! I'm just sitting around, talking to my relatives while my aunt makes the sweet potato souffle. Yummm!

7:30 am, November 24th (Thanksgiving day!!!): All right, we can do this! Wait, why isn't my mom awake? We have a turkey to cook! Maybe I'll go wake her up...I bet she'll appreciate that.

9:4o pm: Well, I think I've just about had it for the night. Pumpkin pie is in the oven, and mom said she'd keep an eye on it while she waits up for her brother and his family (always notoriously late, but that's ok) if I wanted to go to bed. And boy, do I want to go to bed.

So as I go to sleep, here is what is finished:

  • 2 apple pies
  • carrot cake (not frosted, but I'm considering it done)
  • cranberry sauce
  • stuffing (just have to add more chicken stock tomorrow and reheat!)
  • cauliflower mashed potatoes
  • and a pumpkin pie (in the oven)

So I think we made a pretty good dent on the menu, but who knows how tomorrow will be. Sweet dreams, and see you bright and early for some Turkey time!!!

8:50 pm: I've entered a zombie-like daze, shuffling through the kitchen. My body is working to finish everything I need to tonight, but my brain shut off awhile ago. Stuffing is in the oven, and I'm moving on to the pumpkin pie now. Hopefully I finish soon so I can go to sleeeeeeeppppp.

This kinda stopped being fun. I understand why my Aunt Carrie always yells at me during Thanksgiving, even though it doesn't excuse it! (Looking at you, Aunt Carrie. Also, bookmark my damn blog! I can't believe you didn't know the URL.)

8:00 pm: The stuffing is sitting on the counter, waiting to be put into the oven. The whole house smells like Thanksgiving now, and it's amazing.

The pizza delivery guy said that this was the best smelling house he's been to yet! :) I think that's the highest compliment a random pizza delivery guy could give me!

Although, if he had complimented my adorable Mickey apron, that would have been cool too. Anyway, I deserve some dinner!

7:00 pm: I finished the cauliflower mash! 

I presented it to my mother, and she looked at it and said, "will that be enough?" Sigh. I specifically asked her if I would have to double the recipe, and she told me no. And I'm not going to go buy cauliflower tonight, so we'll just have to make do.

Chatting with my grandpa right now, and then I'm going to start on the stuffing. Haven't told my family that I'm blogging everything yet, wonder how they'd react...

6:30 pm: The kitchen is clean, the dishwasher is loaded and running, and I'm prepping my green beans while the potatoes boil and the cauliflower braises. Feeling not too stressed right now!

6:00 pm, November 23 (Thanksgiving eve): So I got home early today and immediately set out to clean the entire house, top to bottom. I finally finished that, and while mom is driving to the train station to pick up my Grandpa and his wife, I'm off the to kitchen to make my cauliflower mash.

So far, we have finished: two pies (only one will be edible, I can almost guarantee that), cranberry sauce, the bread for the stuffing, and the carrot cake, which just needs to be frosted. Seems like an awful lot left to do...

 

I'm not sure if this is the stupidest, or the best idea I've ever had, but I'm going to attempt to live blog my Thanksgiving eve and day activities. If nothing else, it'll be entertaining to watch me get more and more stressed until I absolutely lose it! 

 

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So, here it is. The big day is almost upon us, and I'm just trying to think positively. I mean, what's the worst that could happen?

Don't answer that. 

I was going to post recipes that I made ahead of time, like a responsible person, but I didn't really get around to making that many. So instead I will post the menu that my mother and I worked so hard on. It was a challenge for us because my family was all too willing to make suggestions of what they wanted us to make, and we're also dealing with a gluten allergy.

Not to mention my smallish kitchen, which forced us to think outside the oven, as it were, when coming up with our side dishes. So here you go, I know it's too late to affect your own menus (I hope you have them finished by now!) but it will at least give you an impression of what this new cook will be dealing with tomorrow.

...continue reading

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Farfalle with Roasted Butternut Squash, Sage, and Creamy Pumpkin Sauce, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin sauce, pumpkin ravioli, butternut squash, squash pasta, sage

As I mentioned, last week's theme was going to be an "easier" one, so that I would have time to prepare for Thanksgiving next week. Turns out, baking bread wasn't as easy as I had planned, and I never got around to doing anything for the big holiday.

Oh well.

BUT I did manage to make a phenomenal meal, thanks to my awesome friend at SugarCrafter.net. Seriously though, I am so excited about this sauce.

Earlier this fall, I bought a few pie pumpkins and created my own pumpkin puree. Until now they've been in the back of my freezer, waiting for me to figure out what I was going to make with them. The possibilities were endless! More pumpkin cookies? Pumpkin pie? Pumpkin pie dip?

Why not use it in a savory pasta dish? I was looking through sugarcrafter's recipe archive, and came across this inspired recipe. I know people go crazy for pumpkin ravioli, and I thought this would be a great alternative.

Hands down, it's one of my favorite things that I've made this year. ...continue reading

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So, you're probably thinking to yourself, "Sarah is such a great cook! She's really stepped up her game since she started this blog, and she has created some delicious meals. Also, she's so pretty and talented and funny!"

To which I reply, thank you, dear readers, it means a lot to me.

But you might also be thinking, "I started reading this blog because I was promised "misadventures" and kitchen mishaps! What about that time you lit the grill on fire? Or you burned your cedar plank to a crisp? Enough with the successes, we want to read more about you failing."

Failure is a chance to learn from your mistakes! And to watch things burn, in my case...

The truth is, I have had quite a few failures that I haven't posted. Mostly because once I realize my food isn't turning out, I stop taking pictures, throw a frozen pizza in the oven and call it a night. I've also made several meals, taken beautiful pictures, and then deemed the recipe not good enough for you guys.

This was roasted red pepper pasta. I was disappointed, and moped around all night. Ken can verify this.

But I figured I've racked up enough failures to post them all at the same time, with a startling confession:

I cannot make cupcakes. 

It's not entirely true, because I did make one successful batch, but I also have a BAG FULL of terrible cupcakes sitting on my counter, waiting for someone desperate to eat them:

I call it my bag of failed dreams and sadness

I'll back up a little. Two weeks ago (Chinese food week), I was going to round out the week with some fun, decorative cupcakes. I found a recipe online that made a pretty big promise (I won't tell you what that promise was, because my family reads this, but these cupcakes were supposed to be "Better than sex") Anyway, Ken and I got started on these cupcakes, excited to be back in the baking game.  ...continue reading

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French food, steak au poivre, brandy, cooking with alcohol, asparagus, french vinaigrette, herbed potatoes, roasted potatoes To round out French week, here are the final recipes that we used to complete our delicious meal.

To recap, we had French onion soup for an appetizer, steak au poivre for our entree, and herbed fingerling potatoes and asparagus with French vinaigrette for our sides.

It's hard to pick a favorite part of this meal. A lot of work went into each step, and I'm very proud of the way everything turned out. The steak was bursting with flavor, and we did a pretty damn good job with the French onion soup. The potatoes are delicious, but to be honest they're potatoes, and it's hard to really mess those up. What really surprised me, however, was how much I liked the asparagus!

Herbed fingerling potatoes:

herbed potatoes, fingerling potatoes, white potatoes, rosemary, sage, thyme, fried potatoes

These reminded me a lot of roasted potatoes in their texture, but cooking them on the stove was a new method. The key to these are the fresh herbs. I didn't have any sage, but the rosemary and thyme gave it an awesome boost of flavor. ...continue reading

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steak, sautee, saute, steak au poivre, french steak, beef, steak with french sauce

When you read a recipe that has a fire warning, you can't help feel a little nervous. You also start to get really excited, anticipating the moment when you get to pour the brandy into the pan, imagining the flames leaping upwards to lick the hood of your stove, almost feeling the intense heat on your smiling face.

So when the moment finally arrives and nothing happens, it's quite a let down. Which isn't to say that the recipe wasn't a success, because it was. The steak turned out perfectly, the sauce was so subtle and rich, and the combined flavors were awesome.

But I wanted to watch stuff blow up. *pouts*

Along with the steak, we also made herbed potatoes and asparagus with a french vinaigrette, recipes that I will post shortly. All in all, I think French week was a great success!

It was daunting going into this meal in particular, because everything cooked so fast. We found ourselves measuring out everything before hand and lining it up in the order that we would add it, so that we didn't mess up once things started cooking (Mise en place, for you cooking people). I think it's a great technique when you have meals that move quickly, but I prefer to take my time, chop as I go. I call it the "sit and drink some wine and surf the internet while your food cooks" method. :)

...continue reading

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I must have been riding the high from my success with the Chinese food last week when I decided to try French cooking this week. That, or I was delusional. I thought "Hey, I like French food! I'll make that next! How hard can it be?"

And then I started looking at recipes, and all I could think was:

I love Arrested Development!

But it was too late at that point, and I just decided to go for it. I knew I wanted to make French onion soup, and I found a recipe that seemed fairly easy. But then for the entree...oh my goodness. It was impossible to find a recipe that that didn't involve years of experience, hours and hours, and super expensive ingredients.

Finally I found one that seemed reasonable...if you consider flambéing with brandy reasonable. Check back in a few days to make sure I didn't scorch off my eyebrows or light my house on fire.

But for today's success story:

French onion soup

French onion soup, french soup, onions, red wine, beef broth, cheese, french cheese, gruyere, french bread, baguette, croutons

I am so proud of this! It was a soup, which obviously I've been making a lot of recently, but it was completely different from the usual carrots/celery/onions + chicken stock formula I've been using. It was a little more challenging, a lot more expensive (gruyere!) but so rewarding at the end.

...continue reading

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I'm sure we all know that Thanksgiving is creeping up on us. I was excited for a quiet meal with my mother, knowing that my extended family was off visiting the other sides of their family.

I was going to cook a little cute meal for the both of us, small portions, few leftovers. I'd get to practice my Thanksgiving skills without any of the stress, so that next year I could WOW my family with my prowess.

Today I learned that my grandfather, his wife, my aunt and uncle, their son and their foreign exchange student are all driving up to Rochester to eat with us.

Holy. Crap.

So now I have very little time to come up with a fool-proof menu (my mom is covering the turkey, but I have to do appetizers, side dishes and desserts). I want to do as much ahead of time as I can, because I have to work the day before and after! So what I need from you, dear readers and people on the internet, is:

  • recipes, recipes, recipes. You don't have to type them out for me, just point me towards them on the internet. I'm nervous about cooking for a large group just 6 months after I stepped foot in the kitchen for the first time, and so the more fool-proof they are, the better!
  • Words of advice!
  • Encouragement
  • A pat on the back
  • More time
  • An extra oven I can borrow

So if you have a favorite family recipe for green bean casserole or sweet potato pie, let me know. If I end up using it, I'll give you lots of credit and you'll receive the fame and fortune that comes with having your name on a food blog.

So I really need your help. If you'd take five minutes to dig out that recipe, or offer some advice, you'd be my hero. Feel free to email me if you want to be anonymous.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to have a panic attack.

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I knew I wanted to challenge myself, and guess what I got to use for the first time ever?

A WOK!

This is cool because I didn't even know we had one of these. Turns out, it's been hiding on a top shelf in a cabinet I never  go into, for like 30 years. When I asked my mom how to use it, she had no idea.

So, after googling "how to use a wok" (this is a judgement free zone, folks), I was ready to make a delicious side dish to go with my sweet and spicy takeout chicken. ...continue reading

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I only started cooking a few months ago, but in that short time I've seen myself improving vastly. I have also played it fairly safe, and by that I mean I stick to the same flavors and just mix and match them.

Now, there's nothing wrong with that (we all know how much I love garlic, paprika and buffalo sauce!), but as a food blogger I feel like I have a responsibility to challenge myself and provide you guys with some variety.

So each week, schedule permitting, I am going to pick a new and exciting dish, method or style and document my attempts to mix things up!

For my first week, I let Ken (the best friend, photography and tech wizard, and taste tester for those of you just joining us) pick the style. He of course chose Chinese food, which was convenient because we already bought these cute plates and bowls. I myself am not the hugest fan of Chinese food, but that's not because I don't like the flavors as much as I'm a little (ok, a lot!) OCD and I don't like my food touching each other.

Fun story, I actually spent 3 weeks in China when I was 16. It was exciting and beautiful, but because I was still in my chicken fingers and spaghettios phase, the food was way too different for me. I ended up losing about 10 pounds.

But I feel like my tastes have matured enough to try it again! On our menu we had:

  • Sweet and spicy takeout style chicken on top of white rice (this post)
  • vegetable lo mein (upcoming post)
  • Chinese tea and fortune cookies

I know these are probably American-style Chinese food recipes, but until I master the techniques I'll stick with these. :)

Sweet and Spicy Chinese Takeout Chicken

...continue reading