Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hmmm, I may need to find a different main course for Thanksgiving


Friday, November 21, 2008

It's that time of year

Although I announced in August (and again in September & October) that I would be making Thanksgiving Dinner, it was not until last week that we finally confirmed that yes, on Thursday we would be cooking. Here. I won't go into all the reasons why it went zipping around, but I finally started planning this week. It will not be large, my aunt & uncle, along with their 2 (adult) daughters will be joining HP, The Boy, The Girl & I.

I spent the beginning of the week pouring over this year's Thanksgiving issues of Bon Appétit & Food & Wine, searching for inspiration. I was also trying to channel some of my recent vacation, and find a little Italian flair where appropriate. What I came up with (with some help from HP) was a traditional menu, with a few small kicks.

Pumpkin Soup with Chipotle Mousse (very loosely based on this recipe from Gourmet)

The Turkey:
I think our turkey is probably still alive at this point. I get my turkey from the guys I know at the farmer's market. While not certified organic, it is happy, healthy, hormone free, free to wander the farm, and from past experience the best turkey ever.
It will be salted instead of brined, then roasted walnut, bay, rosemary and garlic. The gravy will be flavored with wine & maybe caramelized onions.

The Potatoes:
Whipped, creamy, fluffy mashed potatoes. HP requested, "nothing fancy; a traditional, yummy, creamy gravy holder" maybe not as exciting as some of the choices I was thinking of, but hey, I can do basic. (although I may have sneak a little garlic in, or a hint of cheese...)

Sweet-Potato-Parmesan Gratin, no marshmallows for me. I want savory! This recipe came from the best ever Thanksgiving issue to beat all magazine issues ever.
Bon Appétit November, 2001. Every year since it came out I have had something from that issue. Sometimes cooked by me, sometimes by someone else. It has never let me down & is more reliable than my stove!

The Veggies:
Grill Roasted Vegetables with Pine Nut Pesto. There will b a few substitutions, no one here is big on brussel sprouts so they are OUT and I'm considering throwing something else in to replace it. Maybe some spinach, wilted in the vegetables. We'll see! I love the fact that it uses the grill and dosen't take up oven space. Hopefully it will warm up a little that day. But not before, right now the grill is my back up refrigerator. (Yes everything is sealed up tight! With temperatures only reaching mid-thirties, it is the perfect place for the stock I've started stocking up on...)

Gigante Verde broccoli & cauliflower in cheese sauce

I'm skipping our traditional creamed pearl onions, in favor of this yummy sounding tart: Belgian Leek Tart with Aged Goat Cheese (Flamiche Aux Poireaux)

The Stuffing:
Sweet Stuffing a la HP

HP's sausage & stuff stuffing.

apparently, I am not qualified to make stuffing, but that's ok. I am pretty neutral on stuffing anyway.

The Cranberry:
Another favorite from my favorite Thanksgiving issue, Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel it is easy & good & ALWAYS a winner. This is one of the few dishes that I'm not allowed to switch up from year to year.

So that is the dinner table! I think that I was relieved of dessert duties; between my Aunt Chirp & The Girl I think it is covered! Am I ready? Will I have everything done ahead of time so I can relax and enjoy my day? Sure, of course that's what I thought last year!

Tomorrow I do the first phase of shopping & make the soup (I roasted my pumpkin yesterday).

What's on YOUR table?

I have decided that last year's Sushi idea was the best new tradition ever. With days of cooking, a little rice & some raw fish sounds likd a nice departure!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Random Venice

I am still working on sorting the pictures, but have been running around a lot since I got back & I spent some of my day off yesterday throwing pottery (after a too long hiatus. I have gifts to make!) I really have no excuse, my sister-in-law who has two small kids & a full time job put together a neat slide show, which inspired me to do the same. (of course, this is the same woman who ran up to the top of every mountain she could find & biked up above Florence; she has a lot of energy!) Unfortunately, while I am inspired, I haven't gotten organized. But I will, I promise. I have family coming for Thanksgiving & don't want to slog through the 750 pics on my computer. I haven't even looked at the ones my husband took.

I thought this was pretty random. There was apparently some sort of art/theatre school hazing our first day in Venice. We saw this young lady "perform" while being egged on by classmates.

We also saw a young man dressed as Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. (which we saw while at the Uffuzi in Florence) Unfortunately, he was walking the opposite direction on the other side of a canal & I didn't get a picture. Besides, his clam shell got in the way.

My next random photo is an advertisement that caught my eye. My feeling is that even the the ads look better in Venice. Granted it is an art show, but still I like the clean lines of it. I also liked the modern look contrasted against the aging building facade.

And finally, even the protests are more artistic. I don't know exactly what this means, but it roughly means they want to be rid of the big hand of public school, it is our time. I know there is something lost in the translation, but I loved the imagery.

So that is my Venice installment for now. I will have more when I do the slide show, but for the random photos, I'll be leaving town shortly! Thanks for traveling with me!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mashed, Smashed, Whipped or Beaten?

How do you 'ho?

Hey there, it's Mandy Lynn your friendly potato 'ho!
Well, due to random technological challenges, I do not have a picture of my taters. I don't know if that disqualifies me from the Ho Down, this month hosted over at Baking Delights so, even if I don't really enter (am I late, I don't know that either, I'm still getting reorganized) I thought I'd share my potatoes from Sunday's dinner. (Which also included Deviled Fried Chicken and spinach sauted in lightly caramelized shallots and a splash of red wine).

The potatoes were the Clean-Out-The-Fridge Smashed Potatoes & really, they rocked!
I roughly peeled (left some skin on) about 3 lbs of red potatoes then quartered & boiled until al dente. When draining, I leave just a little of the water in so I don't lose the tasty tater juices. I warmed up about a cup of dark chicken stock (left over from last week) with about 2-3 oz of goat cheese left in the cheese drawer and a tablespoon or 2 of butter. I dumped that in & smashed the taters with the old family potato masher*. Once everything was incorporated, I dusted with a little romano cheese and topped with an amazing bread-crumb mix left over from a pasta dish. (Yes, I should have posted it, maybe next time). So, for those of you who just want the topping, I'm going to guess on measurements:
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup breadcrumbs, also toasted (I think I used a little oil (very little))
1/2 cup quality pecorino/romano cheese.
when the nuts & breadcrumbs have cooled slightly, mix in the cheese.
This makes an amazing topping for mashed potatoes**! I popped the crusted taters under the broiler (on low) for a few minutes until everything was warm & toasty. Comfort food at its most comforting!

*I am generally not a "ricer" or a "whipper" and I think that the new lingo says smashed are chunkier than mashed & I like a little chunk.
**This topping would also be good on a baked fish or baked chicken breast or topping some vegetable or a random casserole.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Since I haven't fallen asleep yet...

Hopefully you won't while reading this. But, even though it is not very late, I'm pretty much done. But I went and did some rounds of commenting so I thought since the typing fingers were on, I'd try a quick post.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am working on the Pennsylvania Governor's Awards for the Arts. I moved to Pennsylvania as a teenager over 20 years ago. My initial reaction was, "It's cold, I want to go back to Florida!" After I graduated college, I moved to Florida for a couple years, my thoughts upon leaving were, "I'm broke. I need to move up to Pennsylvania. Surely there is a Theatre & Arts scene that I haven't previously explored" (Other than the Central Pennslyvania Festival of the Arts which is HUGE! And I didn't really appreciate to its full extent until later in life. So I moved back & got involved. For the first few years upon moving back I was focused mainly on what I was doing. I worked for a theatre production company and worked about 100 hrs a week and didn't get out to see other things for many years. As the company evolved & I grew up, I was exposed bit by bit to Philadelphia area artists. Then as I grew up more I learned more about some of the other artists that were born or spent their "formative" years, or currently call Pennsylvania Home.

As an artists group, it is unbelievably diverse. Did you know that Pennsylvania was the home of Doo-Wop & Dick Clark & Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, Keith Haring, Andrew Wyeth, Director Rob Marshall (He did the movie version of Chicago & the upcoming Nine, among other things) His sister choreographer Kathleen Marshall (Grease, Pajama Game) Opera singer Marilyn Horne, dancer Rennie Harris, pianist Lang Lang, conductor Peter Nero, singer Patti LaBelle, playwright August Wilson, Bill Cosby, John Updike, Jimmy Stewart, Mario Lanza, George Crumb, James Michner, Marian Anderson. It is truly a list that could go on & on. If you aren't sure of a name up there, Google them, really they are all worth knowing!

I am thrilled to be ever-so-slightly associated with all these people by calling Pennsylvania my home. I am equally thrilled to assist with this year's Governor's Awards for the Arts. Pennsylvania is the only state in the US that explores the state as we honor our artists. I became involved with this event when they were here in my town, at my theatre, in 2004. Since then I have traveled to Wilkes-Barre, (for you Office fans, it is right next to Scranton), Gettysburg and nowWilliamsport. (I missed Greensburg in 2005 due to strange timing). I hope next year to go to the other side of the state for these awards and see more of PA.

I am humbled by the company we keep and encouraged for the future of the arts not only in Pennsylvania, but through out the country. (I'm hoping that the other 49 states do as good a job as Governor Rendell in supporting the arts and honoring those who make it happen!)

This year we honor several people. We honor the usually unsung patrons who give time & money (Thank you Barbara Hudock of Williamsport) and amazing organizations who help the kids of Pennsylvania by introducing them to the arts. Children who participate in the arts, be it music, dance, visual arts or performing arts grow up to be more self-confident, more involved in their community, less destructive to themselves and their community and better citizens over all. Thank you to the PAL Center for the Arts in Reading, PA- an arts center and
arts mentoring program for high risk students & Taller Puertorriqueño, nationally-recognized arts organization known as the “Cultural Heart of Latino Philadelphia,” whose mission is to preserve, promote and develop Latino arts and culture. We have world-renown poet Sascha Feinstein and legendary jazz artist Phil Woods and the Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts, the annual jazz and arts festival that Woods co-founded in 1978. And our Distinguished Arts Award goes to my favorite Batman, Michael Keaton.

I am too lazy to do any links, but look them up. It is a neat group of people to spend an evening with!

Now, I am ready to go to bed. I have some very important people to deal with the next 2 days!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

More Promises

I really do promise that there will be more pictures of Italy up soon. I'll even post one today, perhaps a little more Venice?

I got back from Italy with 2 ½ weeks until the Pennsylvania Governor's Awards for the Arts. I have helped with this event since 2004, and this year they decided that it might be nice to pay me for my help. (Cool, eh?) But with that paycheck, comes additional responsibilities, ok, actual responsibilities; I mean as a volunteer, I helped, but really it wasn't my job. Now it is. Anyway, I've been working hard on that, trying to make a good impression, and trying to keep all the ducks that need to be in a row in their row, so that has been consuming much of my time (plus working 3-4 nights a week, plus just trying to get caught up with life) So I promise there will be more, but I will leave you with a couple images.

I loved waking up in Venice. The street where I live is pretty noisy. There is a bar across the street that sometimes gets rowdy at closing, and the street alongside my house is filled with kids that are screaming, playing, yelling at the top of their lungs, fighting or generally making noise if they can stand to be outside. (I'm really not kidding—our house-sitters, who are 20-something laid-back artists couldn't believe how much noise was on our block). So Venice, where we stayed, was lovely and peaceful. We stayed in a small B&B in the Dosoduro district, away from the Grand Canal and the tourist hordes. We took a nap one afternoon, shortly after our arrival, and awoke to an accordion being played while a group of Gondola's slid down the canal behind our room. It was peaceful, and haunting and the most pleasant "alarm clock" I've ever had.

The Osteria just outside of our front door was lovely as well. Just look at this menu! Today we have a zucchini dish. There is a fresh vegetable soup, I had the eggplant parmesan (so good! Unlike any I've ever had!) Though the Penne with tuna & eggplant sounded good as well. HP had the grilled salmon, which was very tasty!

The restaurant was called Osteria ae Cravate. (I guess you could call it a "Tie restaurant!") I liked all the ties hanging form the rafters. But I loved the food! And the owner was really terrific! He spent a long time talking to us and helping us with our Italian. We saw him often the couple days we were there, and he always had a minute to say Hi, even if we were just passing by on our way to our door..

If When we return to Venice, I'd be happy to return to our cozy room above the quiet canal and visit the Osteria downstairs again!

The view from the window, the canal is down below the greenery.

A lovely trip indeed.

ps. all images are directly from the camera. I haven't had time to crop, edit, photoshop, or otherwise alter them. Hope they work for ya!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Working it out

Yes, I'm trying a new look.
Unfortunately, I decided to do this just before I have to leave the house, so there are still some glitches. I'll rework the header another day & get my links back in as soon as I can.

come back soon!

And for my Italy post of the day, have you ever been to Venice?
I have & love it!
(Here are pictures of me & HP, lovin' it)

Here we are at some random canal. A little tired & jet-lagged from our up all-night flight. (We aren't good sleepers on the plane, and neglected to try the sleeping pills from the doctor for fear of arriving groggy. and so we were groggy) Oh well, it was an amazing day!
Here is a ride on the vaperetto for fun (they are the canal busses) It is very short (I had a fear of memory card & battery issues so I didn't use the video much)

Thanks for riding along with me!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Yes, I did come back from Italy

Reluctantly, but I'm back!
Since I've been home:
I've done about 10 loads of laundry (Ok, my husband did most of them)
I've made mashed potatoes, just as comfort food.
I've downloaded 750 pictures.
I haven't uploaded any of them.
I printed about 10 of them to send to my Father-in-Law & Sister-in-Law.
I sent packages to my my Step-Mother-in-Law & my S-I-L.
My family came by for a brief visit (a long dinner)
I worked
I answered email
I froze my butt off in this house
I wrote a cover letter & updated my resume
I sent them out (ok, I emailed them out)
I turned my clock back
I picked up friends from the airport
I napped
I started a knitting project
I sucked it up & turned on the heat. 55 is too cold for the dining room
I finished 2 books
I have occasionally gotten to the computer. My husband & I are now sharing one computer.
I went to a lecture
and today,
I went to see a movie.
Even if you don't like wine (Although I can't imagine you not liking wine)
You'll like this movie.
It's got love, victory, fermentation & Alan Rickman. and it's based on a true story, The Paris Judgment of 1976

I promise I'll post pictures soon. I will share, my first Cannoli. Shot quickly & unedited

It was very yummy!


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