Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

After finishing the prep last night for one of the biggest meals of the year, I realized just how lucky (and happy) I am to have a partner that I have the pleasure of cooking side by side with.  It may just be the two of us on this Thanksgiving in California but the pleasure of the meal and the company is no less than if we had our whole clan here with us. 

I am taking a break from cooking now, listening to Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe and watching the moisture drip down the living room window.  I hope you all have a wonderful meal today and that you take pleasure in your good company. 

On The Menu

Salt-Roasted Turkey with Lemon & Oregano
Greek Inspired Fresh Oregano and Giblet Pan Gravy
Mashed Garlic, Rosemary and Butter Red Potatoes
Rosemary Bread Stuffing with Prosciutto, Fennel and Lemon
Orange Cranberry Ginger Relish
Roasted Brussels Sprouts w/Cranberries, Bacon and Pecans
Shallots in Thyme Wine Sauce
Italian Marinated Mushrooms

Pumpkin Mousse Parfait
Ginger Snaps
Spiced Pumpkin Hot Chocolate w/rum

What's on your menu?

Thanksgiving Prep 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2 New Yorkers get a Fall re-education (Apple Hill Adventure part 1)

There is no a doubt that when “winter” arrives in Sacramento I will be thrilled that I decided to move here from upstate New York.  Fall on the other hand is a whole other ball game and something I have been worried about since early summer.  How could it ever compare to the incredible experience of living in the Adirondacks and Berkshires this time of year.  Did they even know about cider donuts here?  What about pumpkin lattes?!  These are the thoughts that put me into a panic, and if you have lived in some of those leaf peeping Meccas, you would understand. 

September brought days in the hundreds fueling my fears and adding to my doubts, the leaves were neon green showing no thoughts of desertion.  October brought some potential but still very little compared to what I was waiting for.  As October faded into November I started noticing something strange; it seems the trees do not all change at once here, instead, like proper Californians, they take their time languidly varying hues hitting every color stop along the way, often taking turns with their neighbor trees. 

Now we are barreling towards Thanksgiving and I can happily say that Fall is all the way here and looking the way that it should (in my mind anyway) though with much more comfortable temperatures than what I have been accustomed to in New York.  This past week we decided to fully embrace fall by going on an Apple adventure to Apple Hill in Camino, CA.  We caught Apple Hill at the end of the season and in the middle of the week, so it was not overly crowded and we got to really take our time chatting with the different purveyors.  We also tried Cider donuts at each place that had them, and gave them stars (as only snooty know-it-all New Yorkers could) from 1-4 depending on proper sugar covering and flavoring, temperature, cake crumble, and proper frying. 

After spending the day happily tasting different wines, apples, donuts and so many more treats, seeing all the different sights and being “leaf peepers” we headed home with an oh-so-worth-it sugar bellyache and concrete evidence that Fall does happen here.  Driving back to Sacramento we were greeted by the kind of sunset that you always seem to get on vacation, the kind that engulfs you with its beauty and it never seems to end as it changes over and over morphing from one color extreme to another.  Yeah, we made a good move.

So Sacramento does have Fall, though it may not be the same overwhelming experience of New York, it is a Fall that is very California and one that I am going to enjoy getting to know.  It also seems that northern California does know how to properly celebrate fall, cider donuts and all, and we New Yorkers can get over ourselves and embrace our new home.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Random thoughts for a Saturday afternoon

"Close you eyes, and open your hands, and I will give you a big surprise” she would sing as she walked down the stairs from her bedroom.  My brother and I would stand eyes squeezed shut, hands cupped in front of us giggling and waiting.  There was no surprise, we knew exactly what was coming as she placed green foil wrapped Andes chocolate mints in our hovering hands.  Nana always kept a box of Andes "hidden" in her dresser drawer, and throughout my childhood this rhyme always meant that we would be getting a chocolate treat.  I can’t say that I ever loved these candies and if I did not connect them to my Nana I would probably never seek them out, but with this memory I am always happy when I see them. 

Rob brought home a box of fancy peppermint chocolate truffles yesterday and they have me thinking of Andes chocolates and Nana each time I eat one.  So many of my memories with Nana are tied to food and sitting at the table, I just wish I had been as into food as I am now while she was still alive.  Yes, I loved eating, but I had very little interest in cooking or learning about food.  There are so many things I would ask her now that I never thought to when I had the chance. 

Writing the last post on recipes had me thinking about the fact that I don’t seem to have any family recipes, either from my grandmother or my mother.  There are certain recipes that I watched my mom make often enough that I know them by heart, but there are so many that I have no idea about.  I find family recipes to be incredibly important to pass down, as important a tie to your family’s history as stories.  I think I will have to make some moves to remedy this situation, especially once I have my fancy new recipe holder.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Trying to contain the madness

I have recently decided to take on my recipe collection and move it into a more manageable format.  I have the irritating feeling that this is something that I will be doing over and over throughout my life, similar to the never ending search for the perfect purse.  I am sure that I have plenty of company when it comes to scrambling around trying to find that one recipe that was so good!  Or, something I do often, find a recipe online that you love and not saving it, leaving yourself to keep trying random fish taco recipes for years never sure if they are the ONE.

I have a pretty admirable cookbook collection that is always growing, and having been a bookseller I have a very specific way that these are all arranged so that I can easily find what I am looking for.  Whenever I bring a new cookbook home I quickly sit down to read it, usually the whole way through (I know I’m a dork!) and I put markers on pages of recipes I definitely want to try. 

My problem is not the books but the loose recipes, from magazines and printouts, and the many saved recipes in my favorites tab and recipe folder on the computer.  This is one of the only things that, for a few different reasons, I don’t like using the computer for.  I have no interest in having my laptop in the kitchen with me, just asking to be spilled on, dropped or somehow burned, so storing my recipes on the computer just doesn’t work when it comes time to cook from them.   I have found that all the recipes I have saved on the computer I tend to forget about and never end up making anyway.  I have also been utilizing the public library and the extensive cookbook collection that they have, writing down the recipes that I know I want to try. 
So, I have recently started poking around the Internet to see what my options are and I ended up drooling over all the different types of recipe binders, boxes and journals that there are out there.  I am worried that I am going to end up with something that is pretty to look at and that will look great in my kitchen but will end up as something that I never use.  I am prepared to spend the time at the beginning to gather all my recipes from their current homes to shepherd them into to the new digs, but once that is done I want it to be easy to add all the future recipes to my family. 

I also have the other option of making my own, sort of scrapbook style, but I question whether I will do this.  I don’t want to spend lot’s of time making something pretty to then have it get all grody and food spattered in the kitchen.

Being that we are still on a pretty tight budget I have a while before I need to decide on (and actually be able to buy) my new recipe holder.  But, unlike most areas of my life, I have been having fun planning ahead and pondering the possibilities.  Have you found a foolproof method of storing your recipes?  What works best for you?

Monday, November 8, 2010

From the page to the screen

It seems that when it comes to translating food lit to film, sensuality is key, not only with the food but with the characters.  There is no doubt that the love of food tends to bring out the passionate nature in a person, one which happens to transition beautifully onto film.  Though it is a small genre, I think it is one that has a hearty following and, like food lit, is having a bit of a revival.  Most people, whether they consider themselves “food” people is irrelevant, have a favorite food movie: Big Night (1996), Babette's Feast (1988) and Like Water for Chocolate (1993) have been some of the most recommended to me.

This weekend I had a bit of a foodie movie marathon, focusing on movies adapted from novels.  Two I had seen before, Chocolat (2001) and Like Water for Chocolate, the third, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976) I had never before seen the movie or read the book.  I usually try to avoid seeing a movie before reading the book, but I have the feeling that I won’t be getting to this book for some time so I broke my own rule. 

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 Chocolat, from the novel by Joanne Harris, is the only movie of these three that did not include any truly sensual scenes between it’s main characters, but since Johnny Depp was one of them I think they can get away with it!  The birthday feast for Armande’s (played by Judi Dench) is one that I think stays with anyone that has ever seen the movie.  The pleasure shown in the cooking, serving and eating of that meal is by far one of my favorites. 

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Like Water for Chocolate, from the novel by Laura Esquivel, is a foodie classic and should definitely be seen by anyone interested in the genre.  It is so chockfull of incredible food scenes I can’t pick just one to recommend, you have to see them all!  The sensuality throughout this movie, as with the book, is nonstop and makes the rest of us look pretty boring in comparison.  Oh unrequited love!  Think Quail in Rose Petal sauce as the edible translation of love.

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, from the novel by Jorge Amado, is definitely the most sensual and least food oriented of the three.  Though the main character runs a cooking class and, you are made to believe, spends a lot of her time preparing food, there is very little focus on the food.  I understand that the book does go more in-depth with recipes and whatnot, but as with the movie it is more about love/sex than food.  There is definitely a bit of humor, and it got a lot of attention when it was released, but I would not recommend as a foodie movie.

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Since I did a little research I will pass on to you my new list of (adapted from the novel) food movies:

A Good Year (2006)
Babette’s Feast (1988)
Chocolat (2001)
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976)
Eat Pray Love (2010)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Julie & Julia (2009)
Like Water for Chocolate (1993)
The Mistress of Spices (2005)
Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe (1978)
That is all I have so far, I hope you will let me know of any others!

This got me thinking about which books I wish they would make into a movie and my list includes:

Taste’s Like Cuba by Eduardo Machado
The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber
Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl
Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Now, if only they would make a foodie dancing movie, I think I would be set!

Which food lit titles would you like to see as movies?  Also, now that I have made these lists I have started compiling a list of food movies (not just novel adaptations) would anyone be interested in a tab on the blog for movies, like the others I have for books?  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Foodie Thrift Store Find (of the Year?!)

If you have not figured it out already I am a thrift
store shopper, I just love all the possibilities you have when you go into a thrift store.  You are not tied down by current trends and fads, and (the best part) I can usually afford just about everything!  Thrifting has been great for outfitting my kitchen, from those specialty gadgets that I can never afford in the kitchen stores to unique dishware that makes my table stand out and my food look fabulous.  

I discovered something at the local Thrift Town that trumps many of my great finds for the year, a foodie board game!!  Spices of the World: the McCormick Spice Trading Game, was put out by McCormick Spice Company in the 80's and whoever owned it before me either never played it or took very good care of their board games because this not only has all the pieces but is in pristine condition, it even has the registration postcard to mail in! 

I have yet to figure out all the rules to the game, there are a lot of them, but I have had a blast looking at all the different pieces.  A lot of detail went into the making of this game and I have to wonder if it was for a special McCormick anniversary or something.  Even the little playing pieces have actual spices inside, there is: Mustard Seed, Dill Weed, Paprika and Rosemary.  Each spice card, 38 in total, has a recipe on the back that highlights that spice.  A few of those are; Lobster with Vanilla Sauce, Apple Cider Squash, Saffron Rice, and Poppy Seed Dressing.  I can't wait to try out a few of these just to see if they work!

This is definitely one of my favorite foodie thrift store finds of all time, I can't think of anything more unique that I have found, and this is a great example of something you would never find in a "new" store.  I should mention that it was 99cents too, you can't beat that!  What are some of your favorite foodie thrift store finds?