Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category
John and I aren’t observant… we don’t observe Easter (or any other religious holiday), but we do celebrate it. If a holiday has delicious food associated with it, then we will celebrate it. It is all about the delicious food.
We are having roast turkey for dinner. Not just because roast turkey with my Grandma’s stuffing and roaster vegetables is a delicious meal, but also because we are out of stock. We intend to render down the carcass at the end of the day and replenish our supply. Let me tell you… home-made turkey stock is way richer and more flavorful than the best chicken stock.
Anyway, we have a 20 pound turkey. For the two of us. This is the biggest that we have ever had. It turns out that if it is not Thanksgiving or Christmas, there isn’t much of a selection available in the turkey bin at the grocery store, and this bird was the smallest that they had available. It barely fits into our roaster. We will be eating off of this bird for days – turkey pot pie, turkey quesadillas, curried turkey, turkey noodle soup… Yum.
Dessert will be coconut bread.
There are no eggs (dyed, hard-boiled, or otherwise) or Easter candy (other than one fancy bar of Vosges salted bacon and milk chocolate). We just weren’t feeling the eggs or excessive sweetness today.
Coconut Bread Recipe
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 5 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or melted and browned, if desired
- Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter, and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.
Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray. Spread batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan five minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.
… Boxing Day.
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” scans better, frankly. But I will take snow on Boxing Day instead. Frankly, a snowstorm late Christmas Day/early Boxing Day morning was probably for the best, as any earlier and it would have made my family’s drive home a little bit too exciting.
This was the first time ever that John and I hosted anyone for a major holiday – my Parents and Jeff came down from Cleveland and braved our cat-infested household (…allergies…) to spend Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day with us. We have had people over before plenty of times, but never for a major holiday… so I may have gone a bit overboard on the food. I also baked three different kinds of cookies (coconut macaroons, brazil nut cookies, and pizzelles) and John baked several loaves of bread. We had stuff that never even made it out of the fridge and onto the table. Eh… more leftovers for John and myself. I suspect that it will be several days still before we have to actually cook something.
Anyway, I like hosting. It gives me an excuse to break out Grandma’s china and the antique wineglasses.
Christmas Eve dinner was fairly traditional. Mom brought perogies and oplatky (but no sadanka soup) and stollen, and I made tilapia filets. After dinner – card games, scrabble, cheese, crackers, and desserts. Christmas day, after the flurry of present opening, and more card games and scrabble, was turkey and stuffing with root vegetables and sauteed asparagus. Followed by more card games until my folks had to leave for the 4-hour drive back up to Cleveland.
Followed by an evening of relaxing and leftovers and getting immersed in some of those new books.
And the next morning… snow.
We went for a walk to the arboretum, of course. How could we not? Snow!
I got a lot of nice things for Christmas (the sweater that I am wearing now, a GoPro Hero 3 camera, home-made wine, books, a beautiful snow globe…) but honestly, the best thing was having my family down here for the holiday.
And the snow, and getting to walk in the snow and enjoy the beauty and quiet of it all with John.
The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas always goes by at a breakneck pace. This year was accompanied by a lot of actual breaking.
My (much beloved, much upgraded) desktop computer was limping along, so I replaced it with a new laptop. (Said laptop is still not quite set up optimally… but it is getting there.)
I shattered a glass by putting it in the dishwasher. (Not sure how that one happened.) I also managed to awkwardly yank a mug out of the cabinet, bouncing it off of the counter and onto the floor.
Someone (not sure which of the two cats is at fault, but I can guess… Percival) knocked my pretty vintage sugar bowl off of the counter and onto the floor, scattering china bits and sugar cubes everywhere. This one happened after bedtime, and the crash got John and myself out of bed to investigate. This one was probably my fault. After all, I had left a box of catnip on the counter.
Percival also batted a ceramic saki cup onto the floor right in front of us.
My phone started to glitch out (the SD card dies, it lost most of my account information) and I had to order a replacement (which will hopefully arrive soon).
Finally, as my last act on my last day of work this year, I got to wave good-bye to my company laptop as the guys in the office mail-room packaged it up so that it could be sent out for repairs. Hopefully I will get it back before I have to start up work again in the new year.
We set up and decorated the tree and hung lights last weekend… so far none of those have been knocked down and broken, and I remain cautiously hopeful that it will stay that way.
So, 99% of our Thanksgiving dinner is made from scratch. Heck, about 95% of what we eat day-to-day on a normal basic is also home-made from scratch.
The 1% exception on thanksgiving is the cranberry sauce. You know the one. The jellied cranberry sauce. The one in the can. That comes out of the can in one piece, with the can marks still on it like some kind of decoration.
Have you every really looked at that can? It is hilarious. (at least, I find it so.)
First of all, there are only 4 ingredients. The second one is high fructose corn syrup. The third is corn syrup. Mmmmm…. healthy. Thank goodness that the first and last ingredients are cranberries and water, respectively. And thank goodness that we only eat this stuff once a year.
The can is a marvel of cheesy suggestions and tips.
On the front it features a “recipe” for “ultimate party meatballs” that comes straight out of the 1950′s “open a couple of cans and dump them into a pot” style of “cooking”. I read the recipe out to John, and he wanted to know at what point any actual cooking happened.
There are even instructions on how to extract the cranberry log from the can. (We don’t follow the official directions. We prefer to open the bottom and then stab the top with a knife to allow air in.) The top of the can helpfully informs you that you should “open other end”, as though you wouldn’t have been able to figure out that on your own.
Man, I love package design. You really gotta pay attention to all of the details in order to fully appreciate it.
I took yesterday off of work, and spent the bulk of the day in the kitchen, making sure that there was as little left to do on Thanksgiving as possible.
I cubed up the bread (home-made rosemary-sage bread) for the stuffing and set it out to stale up a little bit.
I peeled and chopped the root vegetables.
And I did some baking – gougères and spiced coconut macaroons.
The gougères are good for breakfast and to snack on throughout the day. I don’t necessarily reserve them for eating with the meal itself.
- 1 cup milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese (I like to use Gruyere)
Bring the milk, butter, salt, and cayenne to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the flour all at once, and mix vigorously with a wooden spatula until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer to a food processor, let cool for 5 minutes, then process for about 5 seconds.
Add the eggs and paprika to the processor, and process for 10 to 15 seconds, until well mixed.
Transfer the choux paste to a mixing bowl, and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the grated parmesan and swiss cheese.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (If you don’t it will be a pain in the but to pry the cooked gougères off of the cookie sheet.) Scoop rounded tablespoons of the gougère dough onto the parchment paper, spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 30 minutes, until nicely browned and crisp.
The coconut macaroons are for dessert. Pies are tasty, but too heavy for me for after a meal like Thanksgiving. (My favorite pumpkin pie is the one that my Grandma made. I have the recipe, but I can never get it to come out the way that hers did. Best not to try to replicate perfection and fall short.) Plus I have the makings for a very nice after dinner cheese tray. The macaroons are the perfect little bites of sweetness to round out the day. This is the best (and easiest – no messing around with meringue) macaroon recipe that I have ever tried.
- 3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut (if all you can find is sweetened shredded coconut, either cut the sugar in half or leave it out altogether)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3 egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon extract (almond or vanilla)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the coconut, sugar, and cardamom in a bowl. Stir in the lightly beaten egg whites and a teaspoon almond extract. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or you will never get your macaroons off of the cookie sheet in one piece). Drop small spoonfuls of the mixture on the parchment paper, spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden on the edges.
Yesterday morning it was snowing when I drove to work – Hurricane Sandy reaching all of the way out to Ohio from the eastern seaboard. The snow didn’t last very long, and it didn’t stick, but for a little while it felt like being back in upstate New York.
Yesterday apparently was also the day my neighborhood “officially” celebrated Halloween. We saw groups of kids wandering through the rain in our neighborhood, and someone even rang our doorbell despite the fact that the porch light was off. (We had about 10 total trick-or-treaters last year, so we had decided to not even bother this year.)
Frankly I think that trick-or-treating on some semi-random night (the night before Halloween? Really?) is pretty seriously stupid. If the argument for “moving” trick-or-treating is that it is a school night… well, that argument wouldn’t have applied anyway. One would think that Tuesday is just as bad as Wednesday in that regard. And who decides what day to move trick-or-treating to? And how do they make sure that everyone else knows? Argh… so so very very stupid. Maybe this whole mess would magically make sense if I had kids, but I kind of doubt it.
Trick-or-treating should be on Halloween, whenever Halloween happens to fall. Done. That is the only way that it makes sense.
And I do know that getting so worked up over this is also pretty dumb, since I have no horse at all in this race (no kids, wasn’t planning on handing out candy anyway) but I feel offended by the stupidity anyway since Halloween was a favorite holiday when I was little.
John and I are still planning on marking the day, we are just being low key about it. I have a pumpkin ale right now, and later we are going to make rice krispie treats and eat them while we watch The Raven. I am looking forward to it anyway.
Eastern Standard Time (EST) in Ohio is about six hours off – six hours ahead – of Hawaii Standard Time (HST).
So the first night that John and I spent in Kona, we woke up at about 2am HST. Woke up and stayed up.
We did pretty much the same thing when we went to Maui for our honeymoon, but on Maui the getting up so early had a purpose since we planned to drive up to the top of Haleakala to watch the sunrise. We had no such plans for the big island, so we hung around the condo for a while, had some coffee, read a little, and then finally got dressed and at about 3:30-4:00am we went out for a long, very late night, walk down Aili’i Drive along the seawall and through the empty streets of Kona.
We saw a lot of stray cats.
It was very quiet and peaceful, and I am glad that we got out and spent that time wandering around.
Even though we are going out to celebrate tomorrow, today is the actual day.
The days surrounding the 4th of July were rather hectic, so much so that the 4th itself felt rather anti-climactic. And having a major holiday like the 4th smack dap in the middle of an otherwise ordinary week just felt… odd.
We have been (and still are… as the temps are supposed to be hovering around 100 degrees today for the umpteenth day in a row) in the middle of a heat wave that has been breaking all kinds of records. Then last Friday we (along with much of the mid-Atlantic region) were hit by a severe windstorm and lost power.
Since we lost power just before we were supposed to leave for the weekend for a SCA event (Baron Wars in Toledo) we kind of shrugged and hit the road. Apparently everything between South Dayton and Toldeo had suffered considerable wind damage and lost power. We saw a lot of downed trees, barns and silos missing roofs, tumbled machinery, convoys of DP&L trucks out to start in on repairs, and bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go (mostly stopped) traffic headed south on I-75 consisting of people fleeing the devastation and seeking A/C and electricity and fast food.
The power was back on when we got home on Sunday. As near as we can figure out, our power was out for over 24 hours. We were lucky, as there are still a lot of people without power.
Sunday evening we joined a bunch of friends for the fireworks celebration in downtown Dayton. And if that particular party hadn’t been taking place in the lovely air-conditioned Racquet Club on the top floor of the Kettering building, we might not have gone… it was just that hot and humid.
Yesterday, the actual 4th, we spent working on various projects. We could have gone to see more fireworks (Centerville puts on a really good show) but decided at the last minute that (again) it was just too hot and humid to venture forth from the A/C.
Maybe when it cools down enough to want to spend time outside we will run around the backyard with sparklers, or set off a couple of bottle rockets. Or maybe not.
This is not easy.
One of the big drawbacks of living in what is so quaintly referred to as a “flyover state” is that it can be really difficult to get from here to anywhere else. We looked at multiple possible itineraries and airports (Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus) when trying to find flights, and everything kind of sucked. We ended up just using the Dayton airport on the rationale that since all of our options sucked, we might as well just use the closest and most convenient airport.
There were no direct flights. None. There weren’t even any flights with only one layover. We ended up flying from Dayton to Chicago, Chicago to Kahului (Maui), Kahului to Kona. (Our trip back took us from Kona to Honolulu, Honolulu to Denver, Denver to Dayton.)
Because none of our flights offered anything beyond the slightly frightening “boxed lunches for sale” option, we picnicked our way to Hawaii. I packed home-made sausage rolls, dark chocolate almonds, oranges, and a couple of bags of baby-bel mini-cheeses. We ate better then most of the rest of the people on our flights.
One of our flights (the Chicago to Kahului one) ended up being delayed for well over an hour (we sat on the plane, at the gate, for the entire time) because they had mistakenly boarded more people than they actually had available seats. Don’t ask me how that happened… shouldn’t they have been able to count and compare the numbers of passengers with the number of available seats and see that one number didn’t match the other? Argh. Anyway, it took them over an hour to kick someone off of the flight so that we could finally take off.
By the magic of a 6-hour time difference we landed in Kona around 4pm local time. We were not on local time. We were slightly beyond exhausted.
We found our luggage, picked up our rental car, and navigated through the strange and blasted lavascape that we had landed in to Kona, found our condo, checked in, and asked the manager to recommend a place for dinner.
Note: Driving through a blasted lavascape on paradise while listening to “Car Talk” on NPR in your rental car makes for a more than slightly surreal experience, especially if you are jet-lagged. Since we tend to listen to “Car Talk” on Saturday mornings while running errands, this only made everything seem even more off-kilter.
Anyway. The condo manager (shout-out here to Kona Reef condos, which was a perfectly lovely place to stay while in Kona) recommended that we walk down the coast a little and do Happy Hour at Don the Beachcomber’s.
I was feeling rather grim by this time and really needed a beer. Happy Hour sounded pretty good.
I highly recommend Huggo’s. This place was great. We walked in with no reservations at what must have been close to the dinner rush hour and, by way of simply asking for it, ended up at a table on the patio overlooking the ocean and the beautiful Hawaiian sunset.
We got those beers we wanted. I just wish that we could find Kona Brewing Company beer in Ohio, because they do very good beer.
The food was fabulous too. This was the fanciest place that we ate at on the whole trip. Looking back on it it is kind of a pity that we hit this place while we were so jet-lagged and tired. It would have been nice to have eaten here later in the trip (or to have come back a second time) so that we could properly appreciate the wonderful food.