November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

I'd like to be live blogging Thanksgiving today to fill all of you in on the play-by-play action over here. It would be fun chronicling cooking disasters and triumphs, but there's too much to do. Maybe I could hire a ghost writer.

I didn't make it to the grocery store until last night. I figured it would be total bedlam at Market Street. It was crowded but wasn't anything I couldn't handle. I didn't see anyone cute. The kind of people that do their Thanksgiving shopping late Wednesday night are lazy procrastinators anyway. Since opposites attract, not my type.

I did have a guy approach me, though. He said, "Can I ask you a dumb question?" He held up a 9x13" foil cake pan. "You can use this pan for cakes, but can you use it for green bean casserole, too?"

"Oh yeah," I replied. "I would use that." Except I would never make green bean casserole, so boy did I lie to him.

Then I came home and ate some bread and took a nap. No need to start cooking yet. It's not Thursday morning. Mom and Wendy came over to help. We finished filling up the dishwasher, and I started the cycle. A few minutes later, we smelled something strange, and smoke, not steam, was coming out of the dishwasher vent. I'm not really sure what's up. I just know I'm out of a dishwasher the night before Thanksgiving, which is probably the worst day that could happen. Bad karma. Ooh! I am totally low on dish soap. The turkey is finishing its thaw in cold water. Next year: five days ahead for turkey thaw. Duh.

The American Farm Bureau reports that the average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner for 10 is $42.26, a $4.16 price increase from last year’s average of $38.10. Where are they shopping? I'm feeding eight, and my grocery bill was higher than that.

Mom set the table for me and chopped vegetables with me. She's the best. I think the next step is making the Pumpkin Cheesecake. After that, the dressing and gravy. The turkey will need to be in the oven at nine for dinner at two o'clock-ish. To get in the cooking mood, I've been streaming NPR segments like: Cooking Disasters: Tales from the Kitchen and Getting a Time-Saving Jump on Thanksgiving Dinner.

Thanksgiving Turkey 11:00 am update: Well, I kinda slept in. Big surprise. So the cheesecake is cooking in Mom's oven. The turkey is in my oven. It looks pretty. No billowing smoke like last year. Still need to do the dressing and gravy and take a shower and then the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Mom is a dear and sent the cranberry salad. She's also bringing broccoli and rice casserole, rolls, and pecan pie. I can't say I did it alone by any means.

Thanksgiving SnowfallAlso, big gigantic snowflakes are falling from the sky right now. Also, Wendy put me on Facebook. I mean, I asked her to do it, but I still think it's dumb. Now I can feel guilty that my Facebook page is as dull as my life. Add me as your friend.

12:45 pm update: I don't have time to be blogging! Mom just called and said there was a mishap when she took the cheesecake out of the water bath. I don't think she was kidding. Looks like I'll be making another cheesecake tonight. I can't let Thanksgiving pass without it. The turkey is out of the oven. The dressing is going in. Still working on potatoes and gravy. Forget the shower. There is a lot of snow on the ground.

Thanksgiving Table6:00 pm update: Dinner is over. The gravy was the last thing to the table. Besides me, that is. Mom said she liked the dressing and the cranberry salad. Daddy said the turkey and gravy were very good, but we need to go to meat-cutting school. Wendy liked the cranberry salad. Scott said it was all good. Grammy ate some Cool Whip and said, "This ice cream is not good." I was glad that my lover wasn't at dinner, so I could wear fat pants and eat as much as I wanted. Helluva day for the dishwasher to break down. Thanks, Mom, for doing the dishes.

Roasted turkey and gravy
Buttermilk cornbread dressing
Mashed potatoes
Mashed sweet potatoes
Broccoli and rice casserole
Cranberry salad
White rolls
Relish tray
Pecan pie
Apple pie
(also a Pumpkin cheesecake that didn't quite make it)

How come there's always something on the menu that "didn't quite make it?" Mom wasn't kidding about the cheesecake. The details are still a little fuzzy, but she said that the bottom of the springform pan fell out when she was moving it. I tried the remnants. Not awful. I'm very sad. I am a baker by trade, and I want dessert to be the highlight of dinner. Maybe next year.

Thanksgiving SnowfallThis snow has definitely put me in a holiday mood. I'm going to start putting up the Christmas tree tonight. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

November 19, 2007

Start the Timer!

I just moved the Thanksgiving Turkey into the refrigerator to thaw. I meant to do that last night or at least this morning but completely forgot. The packaging said to allow for four hours' thaw time per pound. Hopefully that 16.73 lb. bird will be thawed on Thursday morning. I'll probably wind up doing the cold water quick thaw method again like last year. I hope this year's meal is better than last. I think my cooking skills have improved.

It's time to get geared up for holiday baking and shopping, and I couldn't be happier about it. I spend way too much time these days browsing recipes online and in cookbooks. Cooking is really the only hobby I'm keeping up with these days. Football watching has definitely fallen by the wayside. Imagine! The A&M, UT, and Oklahoma games passed without comment from me. I didn't even watch the UT game last week, usually the biggest game of the year for me, choosing instead to make a chocolate cake. After starting off the season with such faithful attendance, I missed the last football game of Scott's life. I haven't made time for piano practice. I haven't read a book cover to cover in months. Instead, my reading lately has been restricted to blog trolling and cursing those that don't offer a full RSS feed.

Classic TrifleMy kitchen was an absolute disaster after making a trifle for last Friday night's dessert. The trifle has layers of sponge cake, raspberry puree, custard, almond cookies, with a lemon whipped cream and more raspberries and cookies as a garnish. You can probably imagine the scene. It was a dark and stormy night. Mixing bowls and measuring cups were littered about the kitchen. Parchment paper was strewn across the table. Baking sheets and dishes sat on the kitchen chairs. The stand mixer and Cuisinart hummed in tandem. The smell of sponge cake wafted through the air. A raspberry thumb print and scattered bits of lemon zest and crumbled cookies sullied the counter top, and sugar dust glistened on the floor. As I reached into the spice cupboard above the stove for some nutmeg, a container of paprika fairly leapt out, spilling its bright red contents on the stove and counter. You see the kind of drama that I had to clean up after last Saturday.

Luckily, I thought the trifles turned out very well and I would make them again. I made individual servings inside glasses, rather than layering the dessert in a trifle bowl. They looked very pretty with the red raspberries and puree alongside the sponge cake and lemon whipped cream.

I'm sans piano lessons tonight, so it's a great excuse to do some baking and some much needed cleaning in the kitchen. I do have a homework assignment due tonight, which is another good reason to hide in the kitchen. Tonight in the oven it's pecans spiced with cumin, cayenne, and paprika. Depending on how the homework is looking, maybe later it'll be some dark chocolate cupcakes. I have some leftover coconut buttercream frosting to use from the latest edition of the Chocolate Blackout Cake. Much like last weekend my kitchen looked like a war zone, this time where a coconut bomb had exploded.

The Thanksgiving menu isn't set in stone yet. I have plans to do some major grocery shopping tomorrow, though. Thanksgiving is really the ultimate foodie holiday. I can't wait. Back to the homework...

November 5, 2007

Fall Back

Birthday Party I had a wonderful birthday last week. Thanks, family and friends, for making it so great. Marmee made the most wonderful birthday cake. I am requesting it every year from now on. It was a chocolate cake with some pumpkin in the batter, which made it very moist. The orange frosting was addictive. It had cream cheese, chocolate, cinnamon, heavy cream - a few of my favorite things. To top it off, there was a chocolate ganache that looked beautiful and tasted even better.

I actually got up early on the morn of my birthday to make a German Chocolate Fair Cake. I had been promising to take one to work for awhile, and since I share my birthday with two other people in our little department, I thought it would be a good day to eat cake! I was a little nervous about taking it, though, what with all the high expectations. I tried to be careful and meticulous measuring and mixing, but I only realized after the cakes were out of the oven that I had forgotten to put the salt in the cake batter. There was a definite difference. The cake was still gone in a flash, so we won't advertise that.

This weekend Chet and I went down to Dallas to see Spoon and The New Pornographers at the House of Blues. Those are a couple of my favorite bands. If you haven't heard the latest Spoon album, you can stream it here. It's called Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, because all of the other possible album titles were already taken. It was a great show. We also hit La Duni for dinner Friday and Whole Foods on the way out of town yesterday afternoon. I had such a fun time. He didn't try to push me off the bridges and overpasses.

I was glad to get an extra hour of sleep last night. I would not have made it to church on time without it. That wouldn't have been good, since I had the lesson for the kiddos. I had to take quite a nap this afternoon, too. I'm not used to this wild, fast-paced lifestyle. The last rock concert I remember going to was Chicago many years ago. I was probably among the youngest fans there, and I distinctly remember that the people behind me were angry that I was standing and singing along. "Young whippersnapper!"

Tonight for dinner, I used my new Le Creuset Grill Pan to make panini sandwiches. I thought I should have Chet over to inaugurate my birthday gift. Here's what I did, more or less. It was a bit hodge podge tonight. I thought the panini were good, but they would have been even better with some roasted peppers and crazy condiments. They're very quick and easy to put together. Anyone can cook... not that everyone should, but:

* boneless, skinless chicken breasts
* olive oil
* fresh rosemary, chopped
* garlic, minced
* salt
* black pepper
* thick, crusty bread, sliced (used Whole Foods French bread)
* cheese slices (used Pepper Jack)

Add a small amount of oil to a grill pan and heat pan on medium-high heat. Pound chicken breasts to a uniform thickness. Brush chicken with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic. Place chicken in pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink. Remove from pan. Put cheese slices on each bread slice. Place chicken breasts on the bread slices and cover them with another slice of bread. Brush outer sides of bread with olive oil and place in grill pan. Cover with panini press or weight. (I used a dutch oven. Those are heavy enough to break a toe or two. I just covered the bottom of the dutch oven in foil and set it right on top of the sandwiches.) Cook sandwiches for 3-4 minutes per side or until cheese melts. Remove from heat and serve.

The pan made lovely grill marks on the chicken and panini. Plus the pan is orange and matches my mixer. And it's heavy enough to use as a weapon, in case the knives are out of reach when your alarm clock goes off. I get an extra hour of sleep again tonight, right?