Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving: Hindsight

I have returned from my unintentional blogging break. Let's start with a Thanksgiving recap. I don't think the day could have been better. For starters, this was the first time in my six years of cooking Thanksgiving dinner that I felt totally relaxed all day long. I mean, I even did this at some point in the middle of the day:

Oh, that's just me sitting down drinking a glass of champagne and eating some appetizers. Normally at this point in the day I would be sweating and freaking out that everything wasn't going to be ready on time. Instead I was laughing at the stories of Hugh and our favorite visitors, M Cubed.

What's my secret, you ask? Well, my secret is that I took my OCD tendencies to a whole new level this year. Enter the Thanksgiving Timeline:

Also, I took the day off on Wednesday and spent eight hours in the kitchen prepping everything I could make in advance. The result was a lovely, calm, happy day on Thursday.

I've said it before, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the food and the cooking, of course, but I really love the sentiment behind it. A day to give thanks for all that I have to be grateful for? Sign me up.

This is what the best Thanksgiving ever looked like:

The table was set.

Pie was baked.

Dinner was served.

Dinner was eaten. And eaten. And eaten.

Dogs were spoiled.

Snuggle naps were taken with Aunt Mandy. Also, see: dogs were spoiled.

At the end of the day, Fletcher had so much fun with his new bff (finally!), Mitch, that he fell asleep standing up.

Really, the day went exactly how I hoped it would, the food was a hit, and our friends were as funny as they always are. We were reminded again how lucky we are in this little life.

The rest of the weekend was spent eating leftovers, watching the new Harry Potter (so good!), eating more leftovers, sleeping in, and celebrating all we have to be thankful for.

I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend, friends. Only a few weeks until our Christmas vacation begins!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cranberry Casserole

In case you haven't noticed, we are a little bit sentimental around this place. The first Thanksgiving Hugh and I spent together, four months after we moved in together (which was four months after we started dating), he was a bartender and I was working in finance. Only one of these career paths is a likely progression for an English major and it's not the one where you work alongside accountants.

We both really did not love our jobs. Bartending meant we were stuck in Savannah for Thanksgiving, spending the quintessential family holiday as a family of three (but that Henry can chow down on some turkey). Finance meant a pre-holiday office potluck Thanksgiving. Oh, the office potluck. It was in that sea of Green Bean Casseroles and store-bought pies that I discovered Cranberry Casserole.

circa Thanksgiving 2005

All's well that ends well. Our first Thanksgiving ended up being the perfect start to making our own traditions. Fast forward five years. Hugh is no longer a bartender and I am no longer working in finance. We stopped living in sin and made it official a few years ago. Our family has grown by one (sweet Fletcher). We moved. Our menu has changed. But this casserole has made it onto our Thanksgiving table every year. It's nice when some things stay the same, isn't it?

Cranberry Casserole seems too simple to be as good as it is. But the tartness of the cranberries, the crunch of the nuts, the juiciness of the apples - it's just right; not too sweet and distinct enough to earn its place on your table. In short, it's just the thing missing from your menu. Make it.

Note: Use a variety of apple that is good for baking like Rome, Gala, Granny Smith, etc.

Cranberry Casserole

1 bag fresh cranberries
3 medium apples, cored and diced
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup pecans, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 stick cold butter

Whisk flour, sugars, and cinnamon together. Toss dry ingredients with cranberries, apples, oatmeal, and pecans in a 3 quart casserole dish. Top with butter cut into pats.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or apples are tender and casserole is bubbly. Enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spicy Tuna Pasta

Sometimes you need a quick and tasty meal that is hearty but won't break the calorie bank. This is it.

I came up with this recipe this summer when both my pepper plants and my tomato plants were producing like crazy, but it's good any time of the year. It has become a frequent lunch feature around the White Hot house. Don't hate me because I work from home.

Spicy Tuna Pasta
serves 2

4oz spaghetti
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 - 4 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much you like garlic - we go with four.)
1 - 3 cayenne peppers (long, skinny, red), thinly sliced or 1/2 - 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (amount based on how spicy you like it - we like it spicy.)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
6oz canned (or pouch) light tuna in water, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
1 lemon (zest and juice)
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Salt your water, of course.

While spaghetti cooks, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cook for two minutes stirring frequently. Add peppers and tomatoes, cook three minutes, stirring frequently.

Add tuna, salt, and pepper, cook one minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

When pasta is finished, use your tongs and lift it out of the water (this works better than draining the pasta because the extra water gives the dish a little bit of sauciness) and drop it in the skillet. Add your lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley. Toss it all around with your tongs to combine. Check for seasoning. Eat it up:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weekend Recap, Belated.

Happy Tuesday, friends! How was your weekend? Ours was just a delight, other than the fact that Hugh was a bit under the weather. Let me tell you about it:

Friday, after Hugh got home from his exam, we went on a lunch date to celebrate the end of test week. Lunch was a treat, as always. When it was over I was lagging a little bit (I blame you, midday celebratory glass of wine) so I took a 5-Hour Energy. And then I felt like I was on speed for the next eight hours. Seriously, Hugh was so happy he suggested that remedy for my afternoon yawning.

We got home and I immediately wanted to clean the house. But I wanted to do it very, very quickly. Hugh obliged. Have I mentioned he's the best? When the house was sparkling, it was time for some takeout Indian (we love you, Lamb Vindaloo), a few episodes of House, and then we were off to bed where I, still hyped on 5-HE, stared at the ceiling for two hours before I finally fell asleep.

Saturday morning was cappuccinos and bagel melts and cookbook reading on the couch before we headed out for a two-hour walk with our favorite dog.

Saturday night was Spaghetti and Meatballs. Goodness sakes alive, I made some delicious meatballs. My marinara wasn't too shabby either. I'll be back later this week with the recipes, but here is a sneak peak:

Sunday was another slow start, more cappuccino, more bagels, and more House. We lounged around all morning listening to podcasts and doing school work (Hugh) and meal planning and magazine reading (me). Finally we headed out for late afternoon happy hour and a snack (barbecued pork nachos - yum):

Then we were off the the grocery store and home for some reading and hanging out with the boys. Dinner and dessert and then the weekend was over, just like that.

Postscript: Henry killed a stinkbug on Sunday afternoon. Did you know they really do stink? Henry was freaking out when he got sprayed, and then we had to wash his paws which made him so happy. He spent the rest of the day being a crank. Every time Fletcher walked in the room Henry charged him, hissing and swatting at his face. Fletcher thought Henry wanted to play, so he proceeded to chase him around the house. As you can imagine, this really improved Henry's temperament. Silly boys.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meal Planning Monday

This is what we're eating at the White Hot house this weekend:
  • Baked Potato Bar - We love this dinner. It is a great dinner for nights when everyone isn't eating at the same time; it reheats beautifully: Bake up 1 potato per person. Halve potatoes and top with shredded cheddar cheese; broil until cheese is golden and bubbling. Top potatoes with your choice of the following: caramelized onions, steamed broccoli, diced grape tomatoes, crumbled bacon, and sour cream. Enjoy.
  • Meatball Subs - We're having these to use up leftover meatballs from our weekend dinner. You can stay tuned for that recipe, which we have dubbed Best. Meatballs. Ever.
You might notice that these recipes are fairly light on the level of labor required in the kitchen. That's because I'm starting my Thanksgiving prep on Friday and I want to be excited to get cooking instead of burned out from the weeknight dinner scene. It's only taken me five Thanksgivings to figure this out.

What are you eating for dinner this week as we gear up for the start of the holiday season?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sassy, yet Manly Brussels Sprouts

So, I was trying to come up for a title of this post about these delicious Brussels sprouts. I suggested Sassy Brussels Sprouts. Hugh objected, since he is the maker of said sprouts and does not consider sassy an appropriate adjective (for himself or his Brussels sprouts). Above, you will see our (i.e. my) compromise.

We found this recipe last year in the November 2009 GQ. Unfortunately, on Thanksgiving our oven was over-crowded with six other side dishes and, we can now tell you, these Brussels sprouts cannot be made on the stovetop alone. Fortunately, Hugh knew deep down in his bacon-and-hot-sauce-loving heart that these would be winner, so he remade them on Christmas day. Success! We have made them about five times since then. And they are making it onto the Thanksgiving 2010 menu, which is no small feat.

These sprouts are the brainchild of David Chang, of Momofuku fame. He served them at his first New York eatery, Noodle Bar, where he says they were so popular he had remove them from the menu lest he be forced to hire someone just to cook the sprouts. These are not a joke, kids.

Chang-Style Brussels Sprouts
serves 4

1lb fresh Brussels sprouts
1/4lb thick-cut bacon
Butter (optional)
Sriracha hot sauce
Salt and pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Trim stem-ends from sprouts. Half sprouts lengthwise, through core.
  • Cut bacon into chunks. Cook in a large-ish oven-proof skillet over medium heat until crispy, about five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  • Raise heat to medium-high. Add sprouts to skillet, cut side down, in a single layer. Sear until they start to sizzle.
  • Transfer to the oven and roast until they are browning on the cut side, about 8 minutes. Flip sprouts over in skillet and return to oven. Remove from oven they are bright green and tender (taste check), about 10 minutes.
  • Return pan to the stove top over medium heat. Put a pot holder on the skillet handle so you don't accidentally sear your palm. Stir in bacon and an optional tablespoon of butter. Toss until mixed through.
  • Dump sprouts and bacon in a bowl, add a few squirts of Sriracha depending on how hot you like it (we like it hot). Squeeze in juice of one lime. Salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Eat them up.
As much as I'm loath to post a recipe without a picture, I'm more loath to not give you this recipe. Hopefully, you will survive. And make these Brussels sprouts.

Postscript: Who knew that you don't spell Brussels sprouts like this: brussel sprouts? Apparently spell check did. I did not.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Freaking Weekend!

Today is test-day Friday, friends, and you know what that studying for Hugh this weekend! He does have some school things to attend to, but I have fun plans for both my time with him and my alone time.

Here are eleven things to be happy about:
  1. Everyone being on the mend! I attribute it to the vitamins, of course. Oh, and Fletcher's two hundred and fifty dollars worth of medicine. In the process of getting well he has lost ten percent of his body weight and looks kind of like a dog from one of those "stop neglecting your pet" ads. We are just happy he's well and working on fattening back up. Being a dog mom is a worry-filled business.
  2. The weather. Are you joking me with 70ยบ and sunny all weekend long?! It means lots of walks with the pup.
  3. Cappuccino. We are making these at home this weekend. Really, this is pretty much how I drink my coffee anyway minus the foam, but I'm excited nonetheless.
  4. T-minus two weeks until Thanksgiving. I'm starting my grocery list this weekend.
  5. This girl. I love her all the time, but as of late she has been both cracking me up and reading my mind (sidenote: Sometimes at our Tuesday night dinners, Matt just shakes his head at us. Like this week, when we were talking about Christmas card photos and Mandy and I realized we had not actually discussed taking each others pictures, but just decided on it through our telepathic communication.).
  6. Some new craft projects. Why is crafting so fun? Last week, I made these for some of my very favorite small children (of the female variety, obviously):
  7. A whole weekend worth of cooking! I'm thinking pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, waffles, something with apple and cheddar (scones? a tart?), coq au vin, arugula and Parmesan salad - the sky is the limit on Friday morning.
  8. Starting a Christmas Binder. I love Christmas. I love organization. I love compulsive planning. Quod erat demonstrandum, bitches.
  9. These words. Let's just all do what we always wanted do.
  10. Don't tell Hugh (whose heart might be two sizes too small), but I've totally be listening to Christmas music when I'm home alone. Love it.
  11. Oh, and these two, of course:

What are you up to this weekend?

Postscript: I'm trying to turn over a new blogging leaf (i.e. actually post some posts). Check back this weekend for a recipe using everyone's favorite small, wild cabbage.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Something to be Thankful For

Since Hugh has assured me this blog is on the verge of becoming a blog dedicated things I will post about at a later date when I'm not busy or tired or sick or out of town (and since I really do not like it when he is right), let me offer you something of substance.

For someone whose two favorite activities are cooking and eating, well, you can just guess where Thanksgiving ranks in my book. I take the fourth Thursday of November very seriously. On our cookbook and cooking magazine shelf (this is probably much more substantial that what you are imagining; we get a lot of comments on it from new visitors), I have a binder that is titled "Thanksgiving." It holds successful recipes from years past, a copy of last year's menu, and notes about potential recipes for the upcoming feast.

With only two weeks to go, let's get to it. Behold, our tentative 2010 Thanksgiving Menu (scroll over items for links):

STARTERS - These are the things that tide our guests (yay, MCubed!) over until dinner is ready. This year we're planning on eating around five, so I will put the starters out around one-ish. I think four hours is enough time to take the edge off the hunger but not so close that all my cooking is for naught.
Relish Tray - A throwback to childhood at my Grandma's house. It's just not Thanksgiving without this.
Parmesan and Thyme Crackers - Make-ahead and so tasty. I add a little bit more water to make the dough less crumbly. You can also substitute chives for the thyme.
Proscuitto with Grissini (skinny breadsticks) - Buy the prosciutto + buy the grissini = no work for this chef.
Chicken Liver Pate - You probably think you don't like this. You do. Also, Hugh is in charge of this one.
French 75s - For the girls.
Cranberry Old-Fashioneds - For the boys.

The Ultimate Turkey - We've been making this beauty since we moved in together in 2005. This is what it looked like Year One (things that have changed: we now have a proper roasting pan, a full-size oven, and a much larger kitchen. things that have not changed: Hugh still wears that sweatshirt, drinks his coffee from the same mug in the sink, and carries HP around on his shoulder):

You might think it's really unsanitary to prepare a turkey whilst holding a cat on your shoulder. You would probably be right, but when you aren't having any guests those are the things you don't have to worry about. Besides, a little cat hair never hurt anyone.

Gravy - Included in the link to the turkey recipe above.
Sage Stuffing - A hands down winner in the great Stuffing race. Make it.
Mashed Potatoes - I never understand people who need a recipe for these. Cut up some potatoes, boil them until tender, drain, add in a healthy dose of butter and half-and-half, season with salt and pepper, mash. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
Famous Creamed Spinach - A recipe of my own creation. Perhaps I'll actually share it with you before the big day.
Sweet Potato Casserole - We are going three years strong with this one. It is sweet potato perfection.
Cranberry Casserole - Another recipe you can anticipate over the next two weeks. This is a Hugh favorite. As he says, there's no reason this should taste as good as it does.
Chang-Style Brussels Sprouts - Dear Lord, why are these so good? I can't find the recipe online. But I will post it for your eating pleasure. This is also a Hugh specialty.
Cranberry Mustard Relish - A new addition in 2009. Good on Thursday, really good on the Friday turkey sandwich.
Rolls - I usually do store-bought, but I'm thinking about trying my hand at homemade this year. Because, you know, there isn't enough cooking to do already.

DESSERT - This is why we are eating at five. So our food can digest in time for pie before bed.
Apple Pie - Because, according to my Blogger profile, this is my specialty.
Bourbon Pecan Tart - This in only about three hundred times better than a pecan pie.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream - The recipe that's making Mandy famous on the world wide web!
Pumpkin Something Else - Because, as Matt said, we might as well have one whole dessert for each person at our Thanksgiving Feast.
Homemade Whipped Cream

This little blog might just be dedicated to Thanksgiving prep over the next two weeks. Let the stomach-stretching begin!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Thousand Words

I could tell you how seventy-five percent of the White Hot household is down and out. And how Hugh has a test on Friday, which kind of speaks for itself. And how two of the three soups I have made this week have been really bad. And how we are just a little bit cranky.

But instead I'll just be quiet until I'm back on my a-game - hopefully tomorrow! In the meantime, here are some vacation photos of Hugh and my brother from a few weeks ago that make me laugh. I was taking their photo and Hugh just busted out these model moves:

Why is he so funny?

Until we're on the up and up, drink lots of fluids and take your vitamins, friends!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Under the Weather.

This weekend we ventured back to Atlanta to meet Hugh's brother, John, and sister-in-law, Maria, and their sweet baby girl, Gianna, for a weekend get together. We had a wonderful time going to dinner, visiting the aquarium, and generally just catching up.

But now I'm sick. Not just tired-of-traveling-eating-out-too-much-drinking-too-much-wine kind of sick, but sore throat, fever, sneezing, headache from hell kind of sick. We have been out of town or had company (which we love, of course) for seven of the last eight weekends, and I think my body is finally waving the white flag. A girl can only take so much excitement.

So this afternoon I will be curling up on the couch with the pets, a big stack of cooking magazines (side note: I am behind on my magazine reading, which almost never happens. After all, one must have priorities in life. And they are the holiday issues, which makes them twice as good as a normal issue.), and lots of fluids while I wait for Hugh to come home and cook me soup (come home, h!).

But as soon as I'm back in action, there will be photos, a fun new craft project, and...the 2010 Thanksgiving Menu! Bated breath, I'm sure.

Happy Monday, friends.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

So, I had a whole list of things I was going to post about. Things that are making me happy right now. It was going to look something like this:

1. Honeycrisp apples and extra sharp cheddar. Best snack ever. I have converted Mandy. You're next, so try it.
2. The arrival of my new camera card in the mail! I have been feeling lost without the camera for the last week, so you had better believe I'll be shooting my little heart out this weekend.
3. It's getting closer to the most wonderful time of the year (i.e. Thanksgiving and the entire month of December).

Then I woke up yesterday morning. And I was in Savannah. And I missed my boys. And it was the grayest day ever. Which coincidentally matched my mood. And I got a text message at one o'clock in the morning (who does that?), so my sleep was really subpar.

Basically, I was in a dour mood all day. But then I came home, and and husband of the year had this surprise waiting for me:

The new Barefoot Contessa cookbook. I am in love (with the cookbook and my prince of a husband). Owning all of her cookbooks, I can say that it is, perhaps, the best yet.

And, now it's almost Friday! The White Hot household has a very fun weekend planned. Not to give anything away, but it will involve some baby snuggling. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What We Drank

What the White Hot Household has been drinking:

Flip Burger Nutella and Burnt Marshmallow Milk Shake

Sunday Funday Margaritas

Monday, November 1, 2010

Without Fail

He makes me laugh every single day:

We had a happy, non-stop weekend in Atlanta with my family and made it home yesterday just in time to pick up my favorite pup from the kennel:

We found a new place to board Fletcher and I think I may love it, fingers crossed. They sent him home in this sweet Halloween bandanna! They also sent him home completely exhausted and he's been sleeping like the dead for the last twenty four hours.

Today has been all about catching up. Back tomorrow, friends!