Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Dinner

After our son and his family were here for their morning visit

and the presents were exchanged,

it was time to make the Christmas dinner.

And I had a lovely dinner planned.

I had just forgotten one minor detail.

My kitchen.

And my stove.

I guess that makes two minor details.

My bad.

You see, while I have a nice, open kitchen,

it is rather poorly designed,

with no counter space being larger than two feet long.

Add in the mix the fact that the stove is directly opposite

the refrigerator and the dishwasher is

in the middle of the work triangle and you have a

culinary work disaster.

Then there is the stove.

At first glance it is a nice stove, being a Jenn Air

with a stove top grill in place of two burners.

But you lose those two burners.

And then, because of the downdraft exhaust system

(which no longer works because the switch is broken),

the oven is smaller than the norm.

I had failed to consider these things when planning

my grand meal.

But let's get on with the meal and see how I overcame

these self-created obstacles.

Earlier in the month my husband had brought

home from work a fully cooked smoked turkey

as well as a bone-in ham.

Since my Christmas is laying on the ground

(the chimney, remember?),

there was to be no new refrigerator for me this year

so I could not fit both in the old fridge.

Fortunately, this December had been colder than usual,

so the ham could safely stay in the garage

while the turkey resided in the freezer

until it was time for the turkey to move to the


Then the ham moved to the freezer just as

the temperatures outside warmed up.

Convenient, no?

So anyway,

our Christmas menu was

the smoked turkey that only needed to be reheated,

a carrot soufflé and roasted green beans.

I think you can begin to see the problem here:

they all require oven space.

Fortunately I have a nice toaster oven,

but that only took care of one item.

I still thought I'd be okay, but I forgot that the

tiny oven would be overwhelmed with a whole turkey.

Le sigh.

First up on the menu, the carrot soufflé.

The ingredients for this dish, which comes from

Thomas Caterers of Distinction, are:

1 pound carrots

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick butter

3 tablespoons butter

salt (to taste)

3 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

After peeling carrots, cook in salted water until

well done. Drain well.

Meanwhile, melt butter.

In a blender or food processor put eggs, melted butter, sugar, flour,

baking powder and vanilla.

Blend well.

Add carrots and blend until mixture

resembles a milkshake.

I ended up adding no additional salt other than

the salt that had been added to the boiling water

for the carrots.

As with potatoes and pasta, if you salt the cooking

water enough, you often don't need to add salt later on.

Cook in an 8" x 8" greased glass pan in a 275 degree oven

for 45 minutes or until just firm.

The soufflé is ready.

And the rest of dinner?

Well, I roasted the green beans with bacon in the

toaster oven.

The directions given for the turkey barely warmed

the meat and given that it had to wait for the
soufflé to bake, that meant it was even cooler than we liked.

So I ended up carving up the meat, stuck it on a plate

and nuked it in the microwave until it came up to temp.

Life; what are you gonna do?

I do recall threatening to eat out

at a Chinese restaurant next year -

that or get a new stove.

At long last, and after much angst in the kitchen,

we sat down to our Christmas dinner.

I can tell you that there wasn't any carrot soufflé

left over.

However, if you do make this and happen to have some left,

it makes a kickin' soup

with the addition of milk or better yet, cream.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing all my readers a joyous holiday season...

And a prosperous New Year.

Now, why do I feel a sense of foreboding...

Could it be that this roost of turkey vultures

knows something I don't know?

What I do know is that turkey vultures are one of the few

birds that have a well-developed sense of smell and

that in the winter we can tell time by them as

they come out at 1 o'clock in the afternoon to fly or

in this case, roost.

I can also tell you that they live in the old barn behind us.

I can also tell you that this is my Christmas laying on

the ground.

Oh well.

That's life.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ice Rainbows and Sun Dogs

While traveling to Ohio to visit with family

last weekend,

we saw an astonishing sight along I-70.

First we noticed the rainbow through the frosty morning fog.

Then, we noticed the prism of light, or Sun Dog,

in the pale, second rainbow.

At first I thought it was the sun in the upper right-hand

corner of the frame.

But no, that is a Sun Dog.

A Sun Dog is a parhelion, which means "besides the sun",

or "mock sun".

They are usually 22 degrees from the sun and are

formed in ice crystals and when the sun is low in the sky.

This was an extraordinary sight.

And just one more reason why one should always

travel with a camera.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snow Days

One of my faithful readers, fellow blogger and friend loves snow.

Rosie, this post is for you.

Farther north, this system is a full-fledged blizzard.

Here, we are just expected to get 1 to 2 inches of snow.

Hope you enjoyed the snow!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blueberry and Pomegranate Salad

I have to admit that I have recently developed

a girl crush.

You see, I have been watching Bitchin' Kitchen with

Nadia G. on The Cooking Channel and I am in love.

She is irreverent, funny and a good cook to boot.

It was only a matter of time before I was

tempted to try one of her recipes.

This was the recipe that lured me in.

The ingredients for blueberry and pomegranate salad are:



extra virgin olive oil

sea salt (I later opted to use another salt than the one shown)

freshly cracked black pepper

hot chile pepper flakes

brown sugar

pumpkin seeds

fresh mint leaves

organic blueberries

pomegranate seeds (more properly called arils)

mshalale cheese (or feta cheese)

(see recipe for amounts)

The first task was to free the arils from the pith.

I score the fruit from crown to bottom and back up again.

I repeat, quartering the fruit.

Gently pry the fruit apart with your fingers.

Then, work over a bowl of cool water and with the

flesh side of your thumbs, free the arils from the pith.

The final step is to clean the arils.

I get another bowl of clean, cool water and clean the arils

yet again.

This took me almost an hour to do just one pomegranate.

Tedious, tiring and boring, but worth it.

And then I found a food that was even more difficult to prep.

Pumpkin seeds.

These little devils are sealed in tight little shells

that resist all attempts to easily open them.

The Foodie Boyfriend and I spent 45 minutes working

to get this much de-shelled.

Then we cried "Uncle!"

We actually needed 1/4 cup. Oh well.

The next step was to toast the pumpkin seeds.

Keep tossing them so they don't burn.

Then it was on to the pita.

One for the salad and one for the cooks.

Olive oil and lemon juice was brushed on top.

I remembered that I had French Grey Sea Salt

on hand, so that was used.

Then black pepper and red chile flakes were sprinkled on top.

These baked in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Salad assembly begins.

The mshalale cheese is cut.

This is an Arabian cheese that is braided.

Nigella seeds are added to the cheese.

This is a salty and stringy cheese.

Feta cheese can be substituted if this cheese cannot be found.

I had to go to our local ethnic market to find it.

Mint leaves are added to the salad.

Then the torn pita is added before the salad dressing of

lemon juice, black pepper, brown sugar and extra virgin olive oil

is added.

Do this just before service.

As a bonus, I was fortunate enough to find

prime beef rib eye steaks for $3.99 at my local

grocery store last week.

I know, I thought it was a typo, too.

I bought the last four steaks they had.

That was enough for two meals for us, as I cut each steak in half.

Dinner tonight was rib eye steak,

buttered egg noodles and

the blueberry and pomegranate salad.

This salad was divine.

I can't say that I would go through the trouble of shelling

the pumpkin seeds again, but if I could find them already

shelled I would go for it.

Otherwise, I would probably substitute sunflower seeds.

As an unbelievable bonus, even my super-picky husband

liked this dish.

Nadia G, you rock!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Going Greek

Today the Foodie Daughter and I went on a

whirlwind Christmas shopping spree.

But before that, we went on a slight detour to the

Greek Islands.

Or at least to our local Greek restaurant.

The Trojan Horse Restaurant has been a fixture of

the downtown Bloomington scene since 1978.

I of course ordered the Gyros (properly pronounced yearo),

while the Foodie Daughter played it safe and opted for the

Tenderloin sandwich with cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickles,

onions, catsup and mustard.

She loved this sandwich and said that it was crispy

and moist and flavorful.

My Gyros arrived with its distinctive blend of savory

lamb and beef seasoned with select spices,

onion, tomato and zaziki sauce

(a combination of Greek yogurt, sour cream cucumbers and garlic).

This was subtly spicy and messy and oh so good.

We decided to splurge and we both ordered dessert.

Baklava ice cream: ice cream with baklava folded in.

This was a good meal and I want to thank the

Foodie Daughter for traveling to Greece with me today.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crispy Orange Beef

Tonight it was just the Foodie Girls for dinner,

so I decided to head East for inspiration.

I pulled a package of boneless chuck eye steak that

had been marked down to $2.99 a pound

out of the freezer.

I peeled and cut a carrot.

I also cut a celery rib

and diced half a yellow bell pepper.

I cut about 1/3 cup red onion into chunks.

I then cut one bunch broccoli florets into bite-size pieces.

These were set aside.

I also had some leftover sauce from last night's dinner.

That was a whiskey sauce with soy sauce, honey, garlic,

red pepper flakes and a bit of whole grain mustard.

Then I added 2 tablespoons of orange juice

(since I didn't have an orange),

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup white sugar

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon grated frozen (or fresh) ginger

1 clove garlic (not shown), grated

to the leftover sauce.

The meat was sliced into pieces against the grain.

I like the late afternoon light here.

The veggies are prepped.

The longer-cooking veggies are in the larger bowl.

After resting in the fridge for a bit, the meat is coated in


The meat is fried in hot oil in small batches

and set aside until all is cooked.

All but 1 tablespoon of the oil is drained and then the

carrots, onion and celery are added to the pan.

Then the sauce is poured in and allowed to reduce.

Finally the meat is added back in and the

broccoli and peppers are added to the pan.

Then the heat is turned off and dinner is ready to be served.

I admit that I Semi-Ho'd the rice, using a microwave


But, despite that fact, this was a lovely dinner.

We did decide that the next time we might try a

batter in order to keep the beef crispy.