Lets begin with this lovely evergreen. This Douglas Fir gave its life for us to enjoy our X-Mas. I wanted to do it justice!
Below, the bits and scraps the tree-man cut off the base….
Ok, we all know the true meaning of "Christmas"…. I am not talking about that…. I am talking about X-mas…the holiday celebrating cookies, gingerbread houses, evergreens decorated with lights and lots of presents! Not quite as profound, but hey…in mine, you get to make layered jello shots! Keep reading….these are so fun!
Lets begin with this lovely evergreen. This Douglas Fir gave its life for us to enjoy our X-Mas. I wanted to do it justice!
Above, the end product all lit up!
Below, the bits and scraps the tree-man cut off the base….
I turned those into a lovely wreath and a small but also lovely garland :)
Here are some lovely gifts we found under the tree….the bows were made out of the wrapping paper itself by my lovely husband and myself. Who knew we had such a creative bow-making side ?! Necessity is the mother of invention as they say, and we were out of ribbon!
Of course there is no X-mas without my Aunt Carolyn's family recipe for Christmas cookies! This year is no exception.
And of course, here's the fun jello shot that I told you about. I found this recipe on Pinterest and it actually came out perfectly!
Ask anyone who has ever had a thanksgiving dinner, and had the option of having it at their house or someone else's and you will inevitably hear, "Let's have it here….that way WE get the leftovers!" And rightfully said! One should always strive to have Thanksgiving leftovers in the home! There are SO many things to make, and here are a few we made this year.
The Classic….the never beaten…..the Sandwich!
Layers of cold thick sliced turkey breast, chilled cranberry sauce, some sautéed veggies and a slathering of gravy on each side of our toasted --Challah in our case :) -- bread! Yum Yum!
Of course, you can get more creative and use the dark meat in something that lends itself well to a flavorful, dark meat…. MEATBALLS! I used the stuffing as the "bread crumb mixture" that you would usually use for meatballs. It works great!
And really, anything you can use chicken as a protein you can substitute in your very flavorful Thanksgiving bird!
Chicken Pot Pie, transform into Turkey Pot Pie. Combine your turkey with chopped veggies, Take a skillet and add some butter, flour, salt, pepper and milk that you make into a white sauce into your pyrex pan and bake with your favorite crust on top!
I used left over pie crust from my pecan pie. I had put it in the freezer and thawed it, rolled it out and placed on top of the chicken and veggie mixture.
Along with the above, we made a stock from the turkey bones and some onions, herbs, lots of salt and simmered for a few hours on the stove. I used this stock to make a yummy veggie soup later on in December and have some in the freezer to use again later.
Ok, so Thanksgiving and Hannukah will not happen on the same date again for a little over 77,000 years! So lets make this special! Once again my husband and I are doing it for 2 but acting like we are feeding an army! A frequent theme in our celebrations. We consider it practice for the day that we hopefully do need to feed the whole family in our dream home with our dream yard, the dog, the kids…..you get the picture.
Some of the items on this years holiday table were very embracing of the Jewish culture, such as our stuffing which began with a home made challah loaf!
And then add the usual players of sausage, sautéed carrot, celery and onion, and for a nice personal touch, we added some apples and sage. Turned out scrumptious!
And then, some…..not so much. For instance, the bacon covered star of the show! This may not be kosher, but it is definitely tasty! This is how my dad has done it since I can remember and it is how I will always do it!
Just wait until you see this beautiful bird all roasted up! Now, lessons learned from last year…..the skin on the bird was a bit splotchy with only the bacon. I realized this is because I take the bacon off for the last 10 min or so of roasting, and since the bacon fat was irregularly spaced with the meat of the bacon, the browning becomes a bit irregular. Solution? Yes! Baste with some olive oil (NOT BUTTER because butter has water mixed with fat and hence will once again give you an irregular browning!!) since olive oil is purely oil, no irregularity and perfect browning! GREATEST TIP EVER, right?!
Gotta have the usual cranberry sauce, mine has a lot of citrus zest in it and I would not trade it for any canned commodity!
We also had some not so usual players for the special event of the two holidays occurring on the same day! Here's the best combo ever….sweet potato Kugel!
But we also loved the combo of Pecan pie ingredients with the traditional dessert of Rugelach!
Here they are amongst the whole spread!
Well what is there to say about Pecan Pie…..it is SWEET and gooey and yummy and gone in a flash! This pie is one that I had never eaten (other than the little pecan pie cups you buy at the grocery store…which after making the actual pie I can say without doubt….ARE NOT PECAN PIE!) and I had never made either. My very crafty friend Katy who has a wonderful blog of all her crafty creations Katy Did It, brought up the idea of trying this fall classic together and that's just what we did!
For the recipe, we looked online and compared different versions and made decision to use The Pioneer Woman's recipe. She never disappoints when it comes to baked goods and having never made this before, I can tell you we were not about to invent our own recipe!
That's exactly how it looked coming out of the oven! No filter on that shot at all! A thing of beauty indeed :)
Can you tell who scooped out the brown sugar? Crafty people do all things in a cute way is my experience! We also measured out how many whole pecans we would need to make the top pretty before going about chopping up the rest of the pecans for the recipe.
Here it is all ready to go in the oven…..
And here is Katy documenting the momentous occasion!
After it came out, the recipe said to wait 2 hours to overnight to allow it to cool and not be runny inside when you slice. Ya, we didn't do that! I think we sat on our hands and looked at it for about 45 min or so before giving in and digging in! Although the recipe is right….if you do this it is like hot lava inside….I still say it was worth it! After it cooled overnight I sliced up a piece for my husband and I realized it was almost all gone, so I snapped a photo of it as quickly as I could!
And shortly thereafter, there was none! I hope you all make one of these this holiday and enjoy!
Sometimes when you are on a string of working overnights, it can be difficult to remember to eat well! You basically go to work in rush hour when everyone else is bopping in their car, happy to be going home, get to the hospital before dinner time and end up STARVING by the time midnight rolls around. This is a perfect setting in which to go down to the hospital cafeteria and devour anything and everything fried the line cook is making for the hungry staff! This is the way I did things when I had overnight call in the hospital.....and call me crazy, but I want something better for my husband who is doing this now. I want him to come home to yummy snacks and quick bites, and leave for work completely satiated and satisfied and avoid the midnight-fry-fest that tempts all healthcare workers around the country!
Tonight's solution for this was homemade chowder! This recipe is an adaptation of the following recipe from All Recipes. Where you see clam juice, I used chicken stock; where you see clams, I used shrimp which I roasted in the oven as such:
-Toss tail on peeled and deveined shrimp with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes or until they are pink.
Easiest way to get flavorful shrimp ever! Then just chop up the shrimp and add it to the "chowda"
Oh, and for the final (and my most favorite) adjustment...where you see celery, I used APPLES! It came to me because as previous posts may have led you to believe, we have far too many apples in our home right now...and the fact that neither my husband nor myself are all that keen on celery. It turned out absolutely wonderful. The texture of the apples I used stayed firm with cooking and served well in that regard. The most wonderful part, however, was the unplanned perfect pairing of the sweetness given to the chowder by the apple and the inherent sweetness of the roasted shrimp. This recipe is absolutely one of my favorites and one I am sure to make again! Just goes to show you that you should always experiment with your recipes and make them your own!
Below you'll find all the veggies and potatoes simmering together just before I added the milk. Oh, I forgot to mention, instead of heavy cream, I used lowfat milk and again, this was a great substitution as it was still VERY creamy! I can't imagine how heavy it would have been had I used the cream it called for in the first place!
And here it is with the creamy milk mixture and roasted shrimp added!
Ok, time to go have seconds!
As the weather gets cooler, the sweaters are unpacked and the ER I work in begins testing for carbon monoxide (get your detectors checked everyone!!).....so comes the season of PIE! My husband's favorite! I love making pie from scratch, and while I don't have my own crust recipe quite yet, there are plenty out there and here is the one I used....
The Joy of Baking always has fun recipes. I had also really wanted to try an all butter crust as I usually have made a half shortening/half butter variety. The consensus is that butter gives you flavor and flakiness and shortening gives you tenderness to your crust. I have to say, this one is definitely a house favorite and I think I'm now converted to an "all butter" gal myself now!
Here's the only piece that would come out of the pan without breaking! VERY flaky crust! I wanted a rustic look to it this time, so I did not layer the apples in an orderly fashion...I just lumped them all in there and let them fall where they may.
My first lattice crust! VERY PROUD!
With a little adornment of course, crust leaves for the ultimate fall touch :)
I hope it comes through these pictures how incredibly flaky this crust was!
My husband and I definitely have a sweet tooth. We may even go to restaurants, look at the desserts and then decide on dinner based on how rich the desserts we want to finish with happen to be! We love cake, pie, donuts and on and on. Since we went to the orchard on a weekday, therefore avoiding all the crowds, we also happened to be there when they WERE NOT frying up apple fritters! This is a major disadvantage to going on a weekday and avoiding all the crowds. We are quite resourceful people, however, and if you can't eat fried apple stuff at the orchard, eat fried apple stuff at home! This was our first foray into deep frying, and well, it won't be the last! It went really well :)
My best friend had sent me a recipe for apple cider donuts and we decided there is no better time than the first chill day of fall to try this scrumptious recipe out at home! We made sure all the smoke alarms were off (kidding about this!) and the fire extinguisher was in close reach and we went to town deep frying these yummy donuts!
They look good right?! Pretty convincing donuts if I do say so myself! Here's the process....no fire and no limbs lost in the frying that day!
This particular moment, we wanted to eat them so badly it was just about all I could do to take these pictures! I really need to work on setting up the shot BEFORE cooking, then putting the food item into the shot. I am going to work on this as my next goal....better composed pics of donuts next time, that's my promise!
Oh, and in case you don't want to fry up donuts but you want to make a sweet apple treat.....I did also make an Apple Ricotta Coffee Cake that was just amazing! Again, not my recipe, but absolutely loved it! Turned out light, fluffy, crumbly on top and just perfect. I will say, it calls for oats in the crumb layer and I didn't have any, so I did without and it did not compromise the flavor or texture at all. Nice and crumbly on top and moist with chunks of crunchy yet tender apples in the middle! YUM....ENJOY!
Some traditions are more fun than others...this is one of them. ORCHARD DAY EVERYONE! A day off together with my wonderful husband, we pick apples, we pick beets, we pick pumpkins and we spend the entire day with farmers at their markets, driving around listening to music and thinking of what wonderful things we will make with our bounty!
And for the ta-da moment...here is our bounty!!!!
This isn't even all the apples! It is going to be a wonderful couple weeks for my husband and I and I could not wait to get started! Here is a little teaser for you....we have already made apple martinis using our bountiful apples hand picked this week.....
We have also made.....sorbet, apple ricotta cinnamon crumble coffee cake and much more to come! Those pictures will be up in the next couple days as we will likely slice into everything tomorrow...but for now, here is the another creation that was finished tonight. A culmination of a prior hot sauce I started!
I took a few peaches, a red bell pepper, a half jalepeno and quarter onion and chopped them all to half inch pieces and cooked them in a bit of olive oil and a table spoon of honey and let them cook down. They cooked down for about 20 min and then smushed them up with a potato masher. I then added the base of hot sauce I had made previously and here you go:
Peach red pepper hot sauce/chutney!! It tastes SOOO good and I can't wait to put it on a piece of salty crumbly cheese, or toast or many many other possibilities!
Here it is IN ACTION on some over-easy eggs the next morning, absolutely wonderful!
While I had the peppers last week, I also dried a few in a dehydrator and ground them up in a food processor....
Ta dah! Red pepper flakes for on top of pizza, pasta...whatever you fancy!
Oh, and did I mention my "just because it's fall" tulips from my wonderful husband?! Here they are in all their gorgeous rich orange and gold glory!
Considering how infrequently my husband and I get to see each other these days, it dawned on me that we need some QUALITY TIME! Both words are in caps for a very deliberate reason. Not only do we need the time together because we miss each other a lot, but we also need some quality food. We have been doing frittatas and such simply because we haven't had the time to make anything more involved. Well, today, despite getting up at 5am and working all day in what was a more than typically busy/stressful day at work....I decided on the way home that I am going to make a yummy pasta dish! Not only am I making the dish, but I decided to make THE PASTA! I found it kind of an ambitious thought as I have never made pasta before nor do I have any equipment to do so, but never the less, the thought washed over me and made me very happy, so I decided to go with it. Sequence of events....Work, drive home, pick up dry cleaning, look up recipe for homemade pasta and GO!!! (oh, and don't forget......Kiss husband hello while he naps in bed from his overnight shift too!)
This recipe for pasta was the easiest I found and it was courtesy of Mario Batalli:
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour shaped into a well on your counter
4 eggs in the middle.....that's it!!!!
Start to break up the eggs in the middle and then incorporate the flour in as you mix....
My husband woke up and decided to get involved in the photography! :)
Kneed the dough until you get a non-sticky, well held together and very elastic dough, then shape into a ball, cover w plastic wrap and set aside to rest 20 min minimum.
Once your dough has rested, roll it out thin (I had to roll it out in pieces smaller than the original ball in order to get it very thin) and then cut into the shape you want. My husband says I made linguini!
gorgeous rolling pin from Anthropologie from my good friend Katy who has her own fantastic blog, " Katy Did It " full of fun crafting projects that she does...check it out!
Here goes nothing! My first batch of homemade pasta in the water, boiling into our wonderful meal! The pasta only needed a couple minutes of boiling since they were fresh...another bonus for nights with limited time!
While the pasta dough was resting, I made the sauce for the meal. I took equal parts (about 2 Tablespoons) olive oil and flour and cooked it for a minute or two on medium heat, added about 3 cups of Milk and let it thicken. I then added a box of frozen, thawed and squeezed (to get all the excess water out) Spinach and let it simmer. I added little jewels of tartness in the form of chopped up Sun Dried Tomatoes and let simmer some more. Salt and Pepper to taste and then added some Smoked Salmon that we had in the pantry. Yumm Yumm!
Sauce is done! Let's put this thing together and eat!!
Top it off with a couple tomatoes from our garden and sprinkle with some fresh parmesan cheese and try and snap a photo before a hungry hubby digs in!
House with a yard and a dog....that's what we are looking forward to in the coming year, but in the mean time...we have an apartment, no yard and no dog. We do, however, have an Aero Grow. For anyone who does not know, this is the apartment dwellers answer when it comes to the question of how to get fresh vegetables and herbs for your cooking. I absolutely adore this thing, and more so now, my husband does! He tends to his garden (our peppers and our tomatoes in the Aero Grow) each and every day! Labors over them with love and the result is some very very healthy and SPICY little red peppers.
We have so many, in fact, that it was becoming a challenge to use them up before they were too far gone. Solution came by way of a suggestion from my friend's boyfriend. He suggested I make a hot sauce out of them...and I did.....a very, VERY hot sauce!
I started by simply cutting the little peppers off the plant, chopping them up (seeds and all....may have been a bit ambitious with our spice tolerance) and putting them in a jar.
I then added enough red wine vinegar to cover, a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of brown sugar.
And with everything spicy, there must be sweet. Here are the gorgeous flowers my husband brought home to surprise me today! Such beauties and such a thoughtful thing for him to do. I took a million pictures of them, but here's my favorite.