In which we bypassed Thanksgiving

After talking about not really cooking for a few days, I actually did spend almost a week without cooking. On Tuesday morning we left for our honeymoon, and thanks to an all-inclusive resort, I had no reason to think about what to cook.

This was not as liberating as I would have thought it would be. By the end I found myself craving greens and some fresh, organic produce. I wistfully thought of the CSA carrots, cauliflower, and squash left at home. When we got back a few hours ago, I found that most of it was still in tact. Sure, the squash was a bit moldy and the celery was a bit wilted. But I quickly got to work.

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A week of not cooking

I have been having a hard time cooking this week. After a marathon session of cooking through the CSA items on Sunday (rutabaga, sweet potato kugel, turnips, and more), I had to put it all aside on Monday. Our friends took us out to celebrate the wedding and I got to experience my first meal at a Michelin star restaurant. We had an amazing vegetarian meal at Dovetail -and spent most of Tuesday both slightly hungover and basking in the afterglow of truffles.

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An extra hour for baking

On Sunday I woke up full of energy. Maybe it was the extra hour of sleep I had gotten (theoretically), but I was still up by 730am – and I was ready to cook. I used the recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Buttermilk Chive biscuits, only without the buttermilk or the chives. It was the first recipe for drop biscuits that I could easily find, so I adapted as I went along. Within 30 minutes I had breakfast ready, complete with fresh biscuits.

Forming the biscuits – a little crudely!

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Holiday Cooking

It started. A few weeks ago the latest copy of VegNews magazine arrived – the infamous holiday issue with pages and pages of Thanksgiving recipes. Then Pinterest turned into a veritable holiday spread. All of the food blogs are talking about sweet potatoes and pies. I can’t get enough of it.

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‘Chicken’ Breasts with Mushroom and Cream Sauce

I am not always an organized cook. Sometimes I’m in a rush and I just take things out randomly, moving more by intuition than by any sort of recipe. That was not the case when I embarked upon a new Julia recipe.

All prepped for cooking – book and ingredients mise en place

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The Weekend Montage

We are so lucky to have survived the hurricane relatively unscathed. The worst parts were some flooding in the bedroom and a leaky gallon of water under the sink. You’d think with that with living on the seventh floor that we’d be immune to flooding, but somehow water came up through the floor, causing the tiles to bubble up. As for the leaky gallon – well, let’s just say that my better half thoughtfully removed it from the closet but forgot to empty it before relocating it.

The cheeseboard at the Halloween party – with some amazing olives in the background!

Of course this created a snag in some of the cooking. On Saturday we were busy babysitting our nephew, went to a wedding, and finished the night off with a great halloween party. Our friends served an array of snacks – some of which I had more than I should have. I don’t usually eat potato chips but if you put out a bowl of them, I will go into a dark place and eat them all.

The potato chips in question – before I got to them

We skipped out on the farmer’s market over the weekend due to a lack of time, and figured that our CSA (Lancaster Farm Fresh)would start today. Unfortunately due to the hurricane, the farmers that we are working with were hit pretty hard, so this week’s pick-up was cancelled. It’s an unfortunate situation because I’d love to have some delicious squash to be cooking, but I realize that this is what reality is. When a hurricane comes, we all suffer.

Instead I finally got to use the KitchenAid mixer this weekend. I had purchased a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Bread Mix and decided to make that. I always forget how long the cycle of letting dough rise, then be pounded, then rise again takes – but I got an early enough start that we had a fresh loaf by late afternoon. I served up two slices, still a little warm, with Earth Balance and some of the peach jam from the wedding. A simple but delicious dessert.

KitchenAid Mixer

And finally, I never got to mention this, but I signed up to be a recipe tester for an upcoming cookbook. Joni Marie Newman from Just the Food asked for people to sign up. The book is going to be a fusion style – with a strong focus on fresh, whole foods. I know that I can’t post any of the recipes, but I want to say that I am so thrilled with the two I have tried so far. There’s a great sauce and a slaw that I’ve been making for tacos all week – and cannot get enough of the flavors. This has been a very new experience for me, and I’m happy to take part in such an exciting venture with someone else. It’s low pressure for me – no anxiety about producing a cookbook, but I get to enjoy all of her labor. Well, and mine too.

Tacos with Spicy Sauce and Cabbage Slaw

 

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Cooking during the hurricane

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All of the pots are holding water — broccoli lentil curried soup made in a wok.

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Where cooking and horses collide.. and not in that way!

Five years ago I did the unthinkable. I quit my job and moved into the loft of a barn. I had just accepted a job working for a horseback riding trainer. I was excited to leave my first office job and looked forward to spending time doing something that I really love. At that point I was already trying to escape the office as much as possible – getting changed into riding clothes at 5pm so that I’d be ready to leave straight to the barn 30 minutes later.In a lifetime full of experiences, there are a few that standout as being extremely formative. The eight months I spent working for my dressage trainer is one of those experiences.

My days consisted of getting up early, administering any minor medical care such as poultices, grooming the horses and getting them tacked up for their rides, and any other miscellaneous stuff that might come up each day. The day largely depended on my trainer’s schedule – if she had a lesson to teach offsite in the afternoon, it meant that the morning would be busier. A few months later we packed up all of the blankets, bandages, supplements, tack, and buckets to take down to Florida for the winter showing season.

Although I had already been working for her for four months, these next four felt like a boot camp. I was suddenly in charge of running an eight stall facility, with two more horses down the street at another place later on. It is here where I learned and cemented the organizational skills that help me in my day to day life. I had trouble selling traditional offices on the things that I learned while working with horses, but the skills I learned were invaluable.

Running a barn meant creating a list on the whiteboard, of items that we needed to buy, as small as a replacement carabiner for a water bucket to more feed, managing a turnout schedule to make sure that the horses got enough time outside without getting nutty, and helping to schedule which rides should come first. When we went to shows it meant packing up all of the required items, which included emergency supplies like needle and thread in case of a wardrobe malfunction along with the bare necessities. And those bare necessities are the most important – as it happened, my sister once forgot the pad that went under her saddle before a 50 mile ride – something she only realized once she got to Maryland, a four hour drive from where her saddle pad was.

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Food labels – where the discussion falls short

Mark Bittman had an interesting article in the NYTimes regarding food labels last week, and what an ideal label might look like. Check out the article for yourself here – My Dream Food Label. He suggests a three part process to creating a number for each food along with a box to indicate whether the food is made with GMO’s. The three categories to help come up with a number are nutrition (obvious), foodness (how close to real food a product is – white bread being low, while frozen broccoli being high), and then welfare (looking at how workers, animals, and the environment are treated/affected by the production of the food item).  

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Impatience and baking

By the time I finished the apple bread last night, I was already done writing about dinner. I think my time limit on cooking is three hours. After that amount of time, I’m no longer interested in waiting for something to cool.

And that’s what I didn’t do. I didn’t wait for the sugar-butter-cider mixture to cool before adding in the sifted powdered sugar. There were two issues here: first, I don’t have a sifter, and secondly, I don’t care. I sifted as much as I could by using the world’s smallest sieve (it fits, literally, about two tablespoons of sugar in it before it’s too much) before I said screw it, and forced some through the sieve with the back of a wooden spoon, and then finally dumped it all in. I whisked furiously, tossed the pot into the fridge, and waited ten minutes. When I took it out, it was still dark in color, but thicker, so I drizzled it onto the loaves with a tablespoon.

I don’t own mini-loaf pans, so I made two in ceramic dishes and one in a regular loaf pan. They look great and I can’t wait to share them with my brother and sister-in-law who live a few blocks away. Maybe they don’t look quite like the ones in the photo, but they taste great and that’s all that matters to me now. When I finally buckle down and take some pastry classes, I may be forced to sing a different tune.

Caramel-Glazed Honey Crisp Apple Bread

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