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archive for November 2010

looking for simple

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Recipe: sichuan tofu celery salad

Oh my word, it’s nearly December. By the time most of you read this it will *be* December. I was telling Erin the other day that when I was a little kid a year felt like an eternity. And now… now the days and weeks and months and years are gone before you know it. She said that was a sign of well-lived life. I think it’s the sign of me not being able to keep track of everything I need to get done, but Erin is always kind about giving me the benefit of the doubt. So it reminded me that sometimes we need to stop and walk through those familiar places, to appreciate how they change with the seasons and how we too have changed.

once green, upright, and riddled with blackbirds

now frozen in place

Kaweah is going to turn twelve this month. She looks great for her age, but she’s physically unable to clamber up rocks, leap from tall buildings, and go tear-assing around in the snow anymore. For all intents and purposes, she has entered her golden years. Not long ago she’d bolt across the frozen lake, wipe out while doing the Scooby Doo running-in-place routine, and then butt-scoot all the way back. In her tiny brain, she wants to come with us on hikes and skis – she is all enthusiasm. But it took a lot of coaxing to get her onto the ice the other day. She stood with her paws firmly planted in the dirt, head tilted to the side and down. When we finally got her out there, she was cautious – nothing like the crazy pup we’ve known for over a decade. But she was a good sport and once off the ice, she was happy to finish out her walkie.

a little nervous

maybe this guy has a treat

Winter is my season of reflection more than any other. I think intently about my life, the people in it, decisions, actions, goals, happiness. Perhaps I’m just too distracted by wildflowers, wildlife, waterfalls, autumn colors, or the sprouting of baby green leaves in the other seasons? Winter around here is sublime when the winds aren’t howling. Walking or gliding through a world of cold, silent white has a way of focusing your mind on the important things. While December can be a time of maximum insanity for some, it’s the time of maximum simplicity for me – at least that is what I try to achieve. Lately, I’ve been enjoying this salad recipe that Kitt pointed me to several months ago. It’s mostly tofu and celery.

and all of these flavors

infused in some oil

**Jump for more butter**

we can do one better

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Recipe: cream scones

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had an enjoyable day. Ours was fairly low key as Thanksgiving goes, although I was probably cooking and baking as much as the next person – or more. It’s not so much the food as the thanks that are most prominent in my mind on Thanksgiving. I’m thankful, so thankful… for my life and all of the wonderful family and friends who populate it. And when I say life, I mean all of it – I’m referring to the joy of waking each day and knowing I’m here to make the most of it because there is no other way to live in my book (that book being the Rules of Jen, which isn’t published… it’s just in my head, you know). The winds were howling and hammering at our house on Thursday and driving to and skiing in ground blizzards didn’t appeal to us, so we stayed home and had sushi for dinner. Last year there was enough snow on the ground to make for a lovely walk with the dog. This year, Kaweah was perfectly content snuggling up on the couch with the occasional treat and belly rub for good measure.

last year’s thanksgiving walk

very thankful for these two

As for Black Friday, I avoided shopping altogether. I hate shopping in general because I feel like my time could be better spent doing something else rather than looking for crap stuff. I’m a search-and-destroy kind of shopper. In and out and no one gets hurt. Too much stuff makes me crazy, which is why I donated several bags of (nice) stuff earlier in the week to Goodwill and the Humane Society’s Thrift and Gift shop. But I’ll admit that I did have some items on my “to do” list which count as shopping…

tea cups

I scoured three thrift stores in Louisville (with Manisha) and Boulder in search of tea cups and saucers. The treasures one can find at a thrift store are many. These are items that someone doesn’t want, but someone else could use. I like that idea. I hate waste. Why the hunt for tea cups and saucers? Well, last month I had treated Manisha to afternoon tea at The Brown Palace in Denver after a meeting we had with the Denver Botanic Gardens.

which tea to order…

Our first reaction was to say, “oooh!” and “ahhh!” at the beautiful little pastries, tea sandwiches, scones, and tea. Then, as any food-obsessed pair of friends would do, we began to analyze every bite. We whispered to one another:

“That must be cream cheese.”

“Yes, but that curry is weird.”

“You know, we could totally do this ourselves!”

And the wheels began to turn. Certainly, we could put on our own tea, no? We could put on a better tea. Manisha recalled one of Lisa’s blog posts on a bridal shower tea she and her family threw. Oh that was gorgeous and Lisa’s tea had some fantastic ideas. Wouldn’t it be nice to put on a tea for our gals? Why, yes indeed!

campari, prosecco, fresh squozen orange juice, orange peel curls

campari mimosa

Tea appeals to me not for the tea, but for all of the little foods. I am quite fond of little foods and tiny servings. And variety. Variety is the spice of life (I say this all the time, I don’t know where I got it from). Afternoon tea is a great excuse to make all manner of sweet and savory bites for your guests. But what makes me happier than making all of this food is watching the people I care about dig into it. We call people with good appetites who enjoy eating and can appreciate good food “good eaters”. I think all cooks love a good eater. I can’t tell you how much it makes me smile when I see Erin’s eyes light up at the sight of chocolate.

we hadn’t even finished putting everything on the table

it’s not a tea without scones (also pictured: chocolate chip banana bread)

chocolate mousse, fresh fruit

salmon sandwiches, chutney and cucumber sandwiches, cocktail samosas, chocolate macarons

The day before Thanksgiving, Manisha taught me to make cocktail samosas. I’m a whore for any “dumpling”-esque savory food – essentially a dough filled with vegetables or meat: samosas, pot stickers, ravioli, empanadas, and the list goes on. Manisha’s samosas are different from traditional samosas. Cocktail samosas have a delicate and thin pastry shell and are quickly devoured in two or three dangerously easy bites. In my opinion, they’re so much better! That could very well be my bias though. Manisha has never made anything that I didn’t like. She arrived at my house on Saturday with about four dozen cocktail samosas. Half of them potato and the other half chicken. Both types are phenomenally addictive. There will be a post on those adorable savory pastries soon enough.

waiting for teas to steep

a full table

nichole pours her tea

pinky out!

the menu
cucumber sandwiches with cilantro-mint chutney
salmon sandwiches with dill and capers
chicken salad puffs (I got this idea from Lisa)
cocktail samosas (chicken and potato) with tamarind-date chutney, cilantro-mint chutney (Manisha)
crostini with sweet onion dip (recipe from my good friends White On Rice Couple)

black currant cream scones
chocolate chip banana bread
zucchini bread
apricot bars (Kitt’s mom)
chocolate macarons with chocolate-espresso ganache
chocolate mousse cups
digestive cookies (Drea)
fresh fruit
lemon curd (Nichole)
clotted cream (Drea)

campari mimosas
assorted loose teas from everyone

Whew! That was a huge amount of work, but it was worth it and so much fun! I had extraordinary help from my one and only fella. In between all of the work he had to get done (science doesn’t stop for holidays) Jeremy cleaned the house before the party, taste tested everything I made and gave me constructive feedback (hey – anyone can eat food, but I have standards to maintain), washed the parade of dirty dishes, mixed mimosas for the ladies, kept track of steeping teas (he is our tea and coffee expert), kept Kaweah from goosing guests with her wet nose from under the table, cleared dishes, and was generally as incredible as ever. He even sat down with us briefly to enjoy some pastries, mimosas, and tea before the conversation got too giggly and ridiculous. I know no better awesome than he.

nichole’s beautiful tea pot

Believe it or not, I had the presence of mind to shoot one of the recipes I made for the tea in the midst of three days of prep. Scones. I hadn’t tackled scones at elevation before. I figured they would be easy enough. Right? Right?!

a little sugar in the dough

add dried black currants

**Jump for more butter**

hunger has no place at the table

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

I’ve been watching my Twitter feed scroll by for the past week filled with descriptions of what people are making for Thanksgiving. When the majority of those you follow are food bloggers, it makes for some delectable tweet streams around the holidays. But I keep my distance from the dinner menu delirium because I’m not a traditionalist and we typically forgo turkey and friends in favor of a simpler meal. I’d rather spend my day outside skiing or hiking than inside preparing a giant meal that makes me sleepy. The thing is, I have a choice. There are a lot of people in this world who have no choice what they eat and even worse if they eat.

hunger is a reality for millions in this world

Last Thursday was my friend, Jennie Perillo‘s birthday. Jennie is so witty, smart, beautiful, hilarious, and kind. The woman has a heart of gold. On her birthday she emailed her friends and asked us to join her in closing the hunger gap – be it locally or globally or anywhere in between. Jennie is supporting Share Our Strength with a donation.

Yes. Yes, of course. For me, with the luxury to choose what I eat on this Thanksgiving holiday and on every day, I also choose that someone else shall not go hungry. My hope is that my contribution to The Hunger Project will help find a sustainable solution to ending world hunger.

And you can join us. Donate to an organization of your choice or one that we are supporting. Visit Jennie’s site to find other participating food bloggers.

Thanksgiving is about what you are thankful for… and giving thanks. Thank you so much for reading.