Thursday, December 31, 2009

sensational salads

Since cookies have basically become their own food group for me for the past few days, I’ve tried to balance that out by eating lots of THESE:DSCN0095

Gorgeous much? Every day around lunchtime I assemble a salad bar with a variety of veggies, proteins, dips and the like, resembling something like this:


This one was quite yummy. Atop mixed greens and romaine tossed with a bit of homemade orange dressing there were shrooms, pickled eggplant, guac, white bean dip, fava bean dip, and tyrokafteri.



Lunch today gave me an awesome conundrum. So okay, my usual style of eating involves saving the best for last. BUT, today’s lunch was so uniformly awesome I couldn’t decide:


Along with the Chobs, I had a dipping plate:


Which was red pepper and carrot slices, fava bean dip, and more of Astra’s beer foccacia (I swear, I will never make another bread again. Girl is a champ!)

If I had, HAD, to pick, though, I think my favorite component was the salad!


Arugula, apples, and goat cheese dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper.

Oh em gee. Make this.

I also, as I am wont to do many many times every day, had tea. My house is cold, yo.


And my adorable mother made it (we both drink a ton of tea- we switch off making it- the kettle is almost always on- so glad we got electric!) and wasn’t sure if I wanted milk, so brought some on the side in this ridiculous antique serving dish:


Geez I am spoiled at home.

So yeah, despite the tons of salads I’ve had at home, I then went out to dinner and ordered salad. No picture (first date- that’d be just a LITTLE awkward) but it was at California Pizza Kitchen so I got one from their website!


Let the record state that their new Moroccan chicken salad is EXCELLENT! Bloggers favorite things- beets, avocado, red peppers, DATES, almonds, curry spiced chicken, lettuce and vinaigrette. Keerazy tasty!

And a nice guy. We then went ice skating and had hot chocolate AW. But to be totally honest, still miss The Boy. Too bad he turned out to be… ugh, whatever.

A final food thing of note- I have been LIVING ON NUTS. There are SO MANY OF THEM IN MY HOUSE.

I’ve been eating salted nuts, spiced nuts, candied nuts, praline-d nuts, honey roasted nuts, and, most recently:


Chocolate covered nuts.

A small, highly unrepresentative sample:


Yum! I am definitely, DEFINITELY getting enough monounsaturated fatty acids!

Monday, December 28, 2009

christmas party extravaganza

Hello again blogland. Get ready for some epic.

Number one: I got a new camera. Since my cousin Ashley got the EXACT SAME ONE (except mine is green and hers is purple), I will let this picture represent it:


I’m in Nikon-land, baby! As evidenced by the extreme yellowness of that picture, me and the new camera are still in the getting-to-know-you phase. Adjust your expectations for upcoming pictures accordingly.

Christmas was vair nice. Church, brunch at my mama’s sister’s which was heavenly because she went crazy at the Italian store so there was lots and lots and lots of heavenly prosciutto and the like, which was what my heart desired after forty days of no meat.

My cousin and sister and I also had a Tyra-inspired photo shoot, which involved smiling with our eyes and looking like we’re in pain (wise advice, Tyra!) (yes, we are wearing crowns. Christmas  crackers? Anyone?)

cousins voguing

Then my sister and I inadvertently smacked heads.

cousins voguing 2

I love my family.

cousins voguing 3

Then hangin’ at home, where I revitalized myself with MORE Sees- a CUSTOM BOX with the WHITE CHOCOLATE that you can ONLY get from the stores that my wunnerful wunnerful godmother sent all the way from WA state.


And coffee:


And opened this gift of note to foodies:


Beignet mix from Cafe du Mond that my lil sister, who goes to Tulane, brought back from N’wahlins. If you don’t recognize the significance of this, I won’t bother explaining. But those of you who know, YOU KNOW what this means.

Then Christmas dinner with my dad’s family.

Lots of good times, lots of good eats.

I literally bothered to take a picture of ONE food item that I ate.

Artichoke dip!


Aaand closeup.


Our “secret family recipe.” Artichoke hearts in a can. Minced garlic. Cheddar cheese. Mayo. Real tough.

So okay every year we have a post-Christmas holiday open house where we open up our house to friends/family/neighbors/church people/work people/everyone who wants to show up. Last year we missed it due to the unexpected death of my mom’s mom on Christmas day (eeeurssshghg.)

But anyway, we wanted to bring it back and bigger than ever.

Last night, after exhaustingly cooking/cleaning all day.

Mom and sister: “Let’s get Chinese!”

Me: “Where will we put it?”

And thus a frittata got made. Cleaning out the fridge tasted mighty tasty- micro-crisped turkey bacon, eggs (duh), butternut, red onion, shrooms.


And now for some fun wiiiiiiiiith:


Love me some puff pastry! Thanks Foodbuzz. Love ya!

Step one: get some red onions nice and caramelized (due to my mom’s love affair with her new mandoline and overexpectation of how many guests would be at Christmas Eve, we have a ridiiiiiiculous quantity of red onions around. Expect to see a lot of them).


I did about 2 cups in about 1/2 T of olive oil. On medium low for at least twenty minutes.



In went a big box o’ spinach. Broke that baby down:


Plus a lil cream cheese (1 tablespoon?) for richness, and some nutmeg for that certain je ne sais quoi.


Rolled out some puff pastry sheets, cut in half the long way, spread out the filling, and rolled up each strip into mini rolls. Brushed with a bit o’ egg wash. Ended up lookin’ like this:




Baked at 400 for 15 minutes or so. Ended up looking like this:


I hear they were tasty? They got INHALED, I actually didn’t get any. Woe.

Since I was a li’l short on filling, I decided to utilize the leftover puff pastry in one of my FAVORITE things I learned in my culinary arts class in high school: pinwheels!

Step one: Cut your puff pastry into squares the size of your choosing (mine were miniaturized- maybe 3 inches across?). Then cut in from the corners like so.


Step two: Fold down alternating corners to make a pinwheel (this picture is mid-step):


Finally, put a dab of jam in the center, brush with eggwash, and sprinkle with sugar.


Again, bake at 400 for 15 minutes or so.

Final product, hot outta the oven:

 DSCN0054 DSCN0055    

Now, the real highlight of our Christmas party? MEAT. We are known for making really really good turkey. People expect it. Were we ever to produce a dry turkey… we would die of shame.

The secret to good turkey?

Duh, brine.

We used the brine from this recipe. Here is rosemary, lemon zest, and Earl Gray teabags, goin’ on the stove.



Poor Tom Turkey in his icebath in the garage:


We didn’t grill it- it’s, uh, December. We utilized the technique from this apple cider brine turkey recipe that we’ve used in the past with great success.

You roast ‘im for 30 minutes at 500 to really blast in the flavor.

Then you “flip the bird” hahahahaahaha.


Every year I get hysterically amused.

Then roastey roastey at 350* til done (ours was a 22 pounder, so it ended up going for another 2 hours and fifteen minutes).

Ze final product:



At my dad’s for Christmas dinner, we had really awesome ham. I don’t even *like* ham and I liked it.

So my leetle seester took it upon herself to recreate it, using this recipe. Here she is caressing the ham:


And the final product (we omitted the maraschino cherries… because it is not 1950).



Now, I know cookies have absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Christ. But nonetheless I love love love love love the tradition of Christmas cookies.

Which is why we now have… like… several billion of them in our house.

Here is the spread, BEFORE any guests arrived with their own. ALL are homemade from scratch.


This is the dough for macadamia ginger crunch drops.


It is like crack. Furthermore, being vegan (although tbh I used regular milk instead of soy) it does not contain egg and thus you cannot prevent yourself from eating copious amounts of cookie dough by trying to scare yourself about salmonella.



As my aunt Val so eloquently put it: “I love crystallized ginger! And macadamia nuts! And COOKIES!”

My mama made these:


Lemon bon bons. The Washington Post cookie feature really rocked our world this year!

I made the icing and decorated them.

The final product:


Used the same icing on some danish gingerbread, my grandma’s recipe:


Along with the puff pastry pinwheels, and our homemade baklava.


And the Christmas angel and our beautiful Christmas icon!


I love being Orthodox. Such prettiness!

On a less religious note, check out the bar!


Like any good bar, there were nibbles.

Festive bar nuts:


Aaand chips and homemade guac:


Guac= 2 ripe avocados, lemon juice, garlic salt, crushed red pepper flakes, TJ’s chipotle salsa.


Gringa but delicious!

By the bar we also had a shrimp station, which utilized the awesome awesome shell bowls:


And as for the rest of the main table….


Rolls (in the awesome antique punchbowl we inherited from my grandma!) for making sammiches from the ham and turkey.

Nibbley end:


To break it down a dip, that featured the spinach in puff pastry,

a variety of dips…


That’s my fava bean dip and tyrokafteri

Some prosciutto, basil, and mozzarella pinwheels:


Pickled eggplants (LOVE!) and stuffed grape leaves…


Cheese plate (gouda and goat!), artfully arranged with fruit…


Oh dear, do we have enough cheese? Two BLOCKS isn’t cutting it? You’re right, let’s set up ANOTHER cheese station by the couch


This one was exceptionally gorgeous, actually…



This actually doesn’t take into account the things people brought (white bean dip, stuffed mushrooms, candied nuts, SCADS more cookies) and doesn’t really convey the loving chaos we always cultivate at our parties. However, I was too busy to photograph more!

Suffice it to say it was fun :D