Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving, for 1 or 2

Last year was a big feast, this year I felt more like a low-key affair. But a Thanksgiving without the aromas of a broiled turkey in the house and plenty of leftovers for soup the next day is also a no-go. This is a simple, low-key Thanksgiving meal with all the necessities; turkey, root vegetables, gravy, good smells, and it is all in pot pot and takes about 1 1/2 hours in the oven. Plenty good.

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Thanksgiving, for 1 or 2 with beets, carrots and potatoes

  • 2 beets, peeled
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2-3 regular sized russet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 turkey legs, unfrozen
  • salt, pepper, herbs des Provence
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 oven proof casserole

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut the vegetables in large chunks and distributed on the bottom of the casserole. Season with salt, pepper and herbs des Provence. Wash the turkey, put dry with paper towels and season with salt, pepper and herbs the Provence. Place in the oven with a lid (or cover with aluminum foil) for 20 min. Remove lid/cover and bake for 1h or until thermometer inserted at thick part of turkey leg reads 185F. --- Serve vegetables with slices of turkey.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving week

Things slow down this week, less work, more cozying up the house, laying low, saving the energy for the Thanksgiving feast and the black friday shopping bonanza. Last weekend was a late in the season trip to Belfast. Chase’s Daily still sells produce, mostly squash, potatoes, leeks, a few brussels, and flower bulbs. This time we added a beer tasting at the Marshall Wharf.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Keeping heart and soul warm

The winter wind is blistering cold. I wrap my thickest down coat tightly around me and still shiver. This is the time to up the ante in indoor holiday decor to at least kept the heart and soul warm. Here are a few inspirations for me this season.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

9 minus 1

It’s late fall. The bags of raked leaves have been picked up by the town so once I got down to business today raking some they ended up on my compost. It is still mild, the kale is holding on despite frost, the Swiss chard not so much anymore. No one really wonders what happens to all those gorgeous red, orange, golden leaves composing the New England foilage. It just makes for a lot of dry leaves to rake once it is over. Kitchn, the neighbor cat, caught a mouse and showed his David Beckham/Michael Jordan moves. He also featured a shaved hind leg with a long fresh scar. He has had adventures, too. 9 lives minus one.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Angel hair puttanesca

Puttanesca means… lady of the night in Italian, so angel hair(ed) puttanesca seems like a very special lady of the night (or street). Anyway, it was the perfect dinner for tonight: a cup of ready made tomato pasta sauce, some sliced (cocktail) olives, capers, fresh grated garlic, a dash of anchovy fish sauce and some fresh rosemary from the summer pot for good measure and the ultra fast cooking angel hair pasta. Done.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Survival guide for Dark Times

This morning I woke up and… it snowed. The type of snow that won’t stick around for long but is a good reminder to remove the last garden chairs and maybe the hose that is still lying around in the lawn. The snow might be gone an hour after snowing but the day is still dark. You catch yourself watching Food TV again, early on a Sunday morning, because Rachel Ray cheerfully cooking meals for the week makes you feel fuzzy inside although you don’t really listen and watch. It is so dark that the lowest aperture on the expensive camera won’t be sufficient to create non-fuzzy photos. A blanket of a dark filter covering the sky, a definite mood damper, and you wake up with a sudden grump about life.

The winter times have begun.

How to survive it?

It is typically also the time to drink hot chocolate, eat soul warming chillis, drink wine, and eat more chocolate in a Bridget Jones kind of way. All good ways to fight the darkness, especially good if you also start wearing sweat pants permanently.

However, how do deal with it without gaining a life vest?

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(Source)

Here are my tips.

  1. Make a plan for the day. Since there is little to do besides booking a ticket to Florida or California to change the daylight impact, make a plan of things to get down over the course of the day. Things you need to get done anyhow (clean the digs, grocery shopping, some work), things you would like to do (a photo book, learn 1h of French). Just pick 3-4 things, and get busy doing them. The rewards comes in the rate of getting them done. It also prevents to fall into the bottomless pit of “I can’t motivate myself to do anything today”. The bottomless pit can be really deep, and watching TV all day (although it seems the most natural thing to do) will convert you into a super grump by nightfall.
  2. Get out of the house in the fresh air. I can’t stress this enough. Fresh air = instant mood enhancer. If you are a runner, run. If you are not, bundle up, go for a walk. Take your favorite friend/dog/cat with you. Load your ipod with an audiobook (something funny, something Jane Austen, music?), and walk for at least 30 min. I once read that people who live in areas so high up North they don’t see daylight for more than a few hours in the winter time never get winter depression. Why? Because they still spend a lot of time outdoors, kids play soccer with flood lights, ice skating, you name it. Get some fresh air.
  3. Get moving.  See point 2. If the weather is likely to bang some branches over your head or blow you away, at least open a window and walk on the treadmill for 2 Miles.
  4. Don’t protest the dark time, accept it, move on. One of the best ways to ruin one’s mood is to play “Poor me! Why why why is the weather shitty today?”. We typically finds many others  to complain with in unison, a group Poor-Me, however it also makes no one feel any better. At all. Move on. Wishing you’d live in Paris/California/South Pacific right now won’t change the weather, really. But it will create a wedge between yourself and the here and now, a good recipe to be unhappy. Accept, and move on. (No one said anything about liking it.)
  5. Appreciate the cozy aspects of life. Say “ah, the perfect weather to enjoy a Spa treatment, or soak in the tub with some candles and a good book, or set up some winter decor, bake some muffins or a bundt cake, invite some friends over and chat over hot tea.”  Knit a sweater! Think Swiss alpine hut with snow and hot mulled wine. Think Vermont barn yard with a wood stove.
  6. Define some joy points in your day. A joy point is something in the day to look forward to. What will be, could be the highlight of your day? For me it sometimes is to get out of town, eat at a really delicious restaurant, have a meet with friends over a glass of wine. Sometimes, there are no joy points in a day when you think about it in the morning, there are just a long list of obligations. Never mind, that is fine, too. Getting them done also makes you feel better in the evening. But always at least give it a thought, and when you find something joyous, be sure to do it.
  7. Hydrate. Makes sure to drink enough water. When it is cold outside we often feel less need to guzzle water, but hydration is still important in the darker times to keep energy up. Fresh juice. Vitamin C!

And with that, I am off to get going.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Roasted sweet potato, leek and celeriac soup

Yesterday I went back to the place I seem to go often: Chase’s Daily, for its excellent food. Roasted beet salad anyone? Since Chase’s dishes are seasonal, the soup has been sweet potato and leek for a few weeks.

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This is a surprisingly elegant and flavorful, subtle soup. There are different possibilities to prepare this soup: roast the sweet potato first and use the leek raw in the soup (a perfect balance of sweet and tangy), use both sweet potato and leek raw (a more tangy, light soup), or roast both leeks and sweet potatoes first (a soup with a sweet depth). Leeks have a definite onion-y tang and balance out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. Anyone who has bbq-ed leeks knows that they become vegetable candy sticks once they are roasted with a very mild onion tone.

For this soup, I roasted both the sweet potato and the leeks, and added a small piece of celeriac raw. The soup cooked for 20 min in home-made chicken stock and a cup of milk. The flavor was rounded out by salt, garlic and cumin. When  I had a similar soup at Chase’s Daily the other day, it was served with melted gruyere, which was fabulous.

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Sweet potato, leek and celeriac soup

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, and cut in large chunks
  • 2 leek stalk, half of the green parts discarded, rest washed and cut into 7 inch parts
  • 6 oz celeriac (root), peeled, diced (optional)
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 1 shallot, peeled, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 TB bouillon
  • 1/2 TB cumin

Serve with melted grueyere.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place the sweet potatoes and leeks on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 min (or leeks slightly charred).

Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottom pot, melt the butter and saute the shallot until translucent. Add the celeriac root and slightly saute. Add the garlic and saute the mix until fragrant. Take off the stove.

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Once the sweet potatoes and leeks are roasted, add them to the soup pot. Put back on medium heat, slightly saute, and add the chicken stock, milk, bouillon and cumin. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a soft simmer. Simmer for about 20min. With an immersion blender, bring the soup to a smooth consistency.

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Add some fresh  grated garlic. Serve with grilled bread and melted Grueyere.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Beatnik juice

After one week of eating grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, rice soups, and baked potatoes, I was ready to add fresh veggies back to my diet. I had started to feel that all that processed, squishy white bread was not making me feel any healthier/energized, and I decided although I am on a restricted diet I have to make a healthier version out of it: cook my own food, fresh, flavorful soups, simple ingredients, organic sources, and eat food that I can support again, philosophically. No more squishy white flour bread, not even when toasted with Sargento cheese. Today, I got the juicer out.

A few carrots, a beet that turned out to be an albino on the inside, a piece of ginger and 2 apples from the farmers market. Much better.

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Bread ambitions

What sense does it make to enjoy daylight savings rolling back the clock and an extra hour when you wake up bright an early at 5am on a Sunday? It does not help to tell myself “It is really 6am….” TOO early. Oh well, so I had a chance to catch up with the Food network. Rachel Ray is still cooking and still coming up with new recipes, like for the last 10 years, just a little bit less energy than normally.

One of my ambitions in life is to bake an authentic German Landbrot, which is a large loaf of a dense, semi-crust dark rye bread. These look like 2 good recipes to start with (recipe 1, recipe 2).  This brings back memories…. a slice of bread, some fresh butter, and a glass of wine. Almost biblical!

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Shiny boots

November started with a storm but now it is mild and sunny again. The neighbors clear out the leaves in their gardens, Target throws out plastic skeletons for an apple and an egg and carts in the holiday decor in white, silver and red, and 2 inches of snow are predicted for tomorrow morning. – Since yesterday I am living very well because my friend K. brought a large container of the most delicious rice and chicken dish with a yogurt and cilantro topping. There are hints of cinnamon and it is just beautifully flavored. Oh, I must get the recipe….

On another note, I went with a buff and a teaspoon of olive oil over my Hunter rain boots, and they look like new again.

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