Reflections, Regrets, and Ruminations Monday, Nov 30 2009 

Well, well, well.  Would you look at that?  In four hours, November is over.  Where the hell did this month go?  Seriously?  Wasn’t I just bitching about this whole NaBloPoMo thing last week?  Sure feels like it…

 

Not that this has been easy – especially over the course of the last week.  Boyfriend was home for nearly a full week, shockingly, and we waaay overextended ourselves for the majority of those seven days.  Not only was I not cooking anything (well, except for Thanksgiving, but that’s a whole different issue), I was barely even near the kitchen.  Hence the affinity of beer and cop-out posts in the last few weeks.

But now, friends, it’s nearly December.  And in December, we bake Christmas cookies.  And in December, I have no obligatory midnight deadline for posting every. single. day.  Which should help on the weekend mornings where I have nothing to say, because, let’s face it – we all get writer’s block.

 

I have to say, though, that I’m proud of myself for doing it.  It may not have always been pretty or successful, and sometimes there weren’t even words, but hey – for thirty whole days, I was posting.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is on TV, and since I’ve watched The Santa Clause approximately six times this weekend (You’re welcome, Boyfriend), it’s time for something new.

 

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Brooklyn Brewery Sunday, Nov 29 2009 

If you live outside of the tri-state area, there’s a good chance you aren’t terribly familiar with Brooklyn beers.  And until yesterday afternoon, I wasn’t their biggest fan.

Most liquor stores in the area stock the Brooklyn Lager, and ocassionally their Local One and Local Two brews.  But finding anything beyond that is kind of rare (unless, I imagine, you live in Brooklyn) – which is a real shame, considering I really enjoyed the Brown Ale and Back Breaker I tried yesterday when Boyfriend and I decided to visit the brewery on a whim.

Like Riverhorse, Brooklyn gives free tours.  Unlike Riverhorse, they are not self-guided, and they only happen on Saturdays.  And, to be fair, it’s not really so much a tour, since you’re really just listening to the brewery’s history while standing in one room of their factory.  Still, it was interesting, and totally worth the trip across the river.  Especially since the place is pretty much a regular bar with only one brand of beer on tap – they sell beer tokens (6 for $20 – a bargain for NYC) and playing cards, and there are large circular tables throughout the room to use for drinking games and eating the pizza local restaurants will deliver to the brewery.  Seriously – if I lived closer to the City, I’d be there pretty frequently.

And while the Locals may not be quite my style, it’s fun to have a new kind of beer to look for – because you can bet that if and when I find that Back Breaker, I’ll be buying at least a 6-pack.

Dim Sum Saturday, Nov 28 2009 

If you haven’t had the opportunity to partake in dim sum yet, stop what you’re doing.  I mean it – stop surfing the internet, stop reading this post, just get up and go now.

I’ve wanted to try dim sum for quite some time – I had ample opportunity in London when I was studying abroad, and I simply never had time to go when my flatmates were heading to their favorite dim sum restaurant.  Then Boyfriend’s roommates ordered it during my accidentally-extended stay in Boston during a snowstorm, and it’s been haunting my thoughts ever since.  Since I’ve also been pining away for a trip to NYC for the day, I decided that while Boyfriend was home for the week, I’d better take advantage and drag his butt to Chinatown.

Did I mention he’s never been to Canal Street?  You can imagine the hilarity when I neglected to warn him about what he was walking into until moments before we stepped off the subway.  He was, to put it mildly, overwhelmed.  And also, entertained – especially when the police sirens started and the, um, vendors frantically tucked their wares into suitcases and shuffled quickly down the street.

But anyway – back to the dim sum.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, dim sum is like Chinese tapas, except that it generally happens in the morning.  The idea is that rather than ordering off of a menu, the dishes are circulated around the restaurant on carts pushed by waitresses who stamp your “check” to indicate what you’ve eaten.  The dishes are all small plates – generally 3-4 of each offering, depending upon what the dish is.

We opted for the enormous Jing Fong dim sum hall in Chinatown for our first experience, mostly because it got the best recommendations on the websites I read.  Also, it’s huge, elaborate, and reportedly delicious.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for its size.  The line outside was daunting, and while it encouraged us that so many people were willing to wait, I was hungry and I wasn’t about to wait an hour to eat my vegetable dumplings.  I was skeptical when the hostess told me it would be only 15 minutes, but I took our scrap of paper with the number 72 (as she called number 40 to be seated) and stood quietly in the corner.  And honestly?  If we waited 10 minutes, I’d be surprised.  They whipped right through the 32 groups in front of us, and before we knew it, we were premitted to go up the escalator with the other lucky diners.  That’s right.  I said escalator.  It’s that enormous.  We were seated with a group of 5 charming Long Islanders, whose 10 years of dim sum experience were greatly appreciated by both myself and Boyfriend.

As for the food – well, let’s just say, I’ll be going back soon.  Not only was everything delicious, unique, and so cheap, but the experience itself was invaluable.  So festive, so original – by far one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been to.  I may not have tried the tripe or chicken feet this trip, but hey – baby steps.  It’s not like it’s the last time I’ll be enjoying dim sum.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Friday, Nov 27 2009 

In case anyone was concerned, the dog-sized turkey and the pecan pie were delicious.  As was everything else at the Thanksgiving table, including our experimental dish, which we definitely should’ve made more of.

 

It gets boring to just have the traditional standard fare at Thanksgiving, and Mom decided to throw some bacon-wrapped asparagus into the mix this year.  Only I don’t like bacon, so we used prosciutto.  And those 16 spears?  Not nearly enough.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

16 spears of asparagus

8 thin slices of prosciutto

Cream cheese

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the asparagus, and snap off the woody ends.  Cut all of the prosciutto in half so the height is the same, but the strips are shorter.  Spread a very thin layer of cream cheese on one side of a slice of prosciutto, and wrap the meat around the asparagus, cream side down.

Once all of the spears are wrapped, lay them in a glass baking dish (spray the dish with cooking spray first) and cook for 20 minutes – until the asparagus is fully cooked.

Thanksgiving: Preperation Thursday, Nov 26 2009 

12:30pm, assessing the 20-pound turkey we’re preparing to heave into the oven:

 

Mom: Do you think I put enough herbs in there?

Me: No idea.

Mom: But what do you think?  Should I put more seasoning in it?

Me: Who knows?  I’ve never cooked something that big.  It’s heavier than the dog.

Happy Thanksgiving! May all of your turkeys be properly seasoned.

Thanksgiving Pregame – Decorating Wednesday, Nov 25 2009 

Pumpkin, Revisited Tuesday, Nov 24 2009 

In case you haven’t glanced at your calendar lately, November is rapidly coming to a close.  As in, Thanksgiving is in two days.  As in, I only have to do this daily posting stuff for another week (!!).  As in, holy crap, I have to start Christmas shopping! 

So before we fastforward into the snowy months, and I go into hibernation with my Penn State Snuggie and Chouffe, pining for the days of 50-degree weather and the urge to post every day, I thought we could revist all the pumpkin recipes that scream FALL! to me one last time. 

Thanksgiving breakfast, anyone?

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Scones

 

Sides:

Pumpkin Souffle

Pumpkin Bread

 

Appetizers and Munchies:

Pumpkin Ravioli

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

 

And, of course, the ever-important cocktail:

Pumpkin Martinis

My Favorite Winter Beer Monday, Nov 23 2009 

As I mentioned yesterday, my beer tastes have been progressed right on through the fall, despite it only being November.  Which means that instead of looking for everything pumpkin, I’ve moved on to looking for everything Christmas – those limited edition, molasses-thick beers that warm you from the inside out.  The kind that are deep and rich, dark and full of malty goodness.

Boyfriend and I discovered our favorite such beer last year, at our first beer tasting festival in Philly.  Of all the Belgian beers on hand, it was the N’Ice Chouffe that won us over from the first sip.  We spent months looking for it, only to discover a week ago that it’s a seasonal beer, and is produced only once a year at a monastary in Belgium.  Well I’ll be damned.  No wonder no liquor stores were carrying it when we found it in February.

But they are carrying it now, and it’s still as fantastic as I remember.  So fantastic, in fact, that I’ve bought three bottles in one week.  Don’t be so quick to judge – I’ve only finished one so far…

Pecan Pie Sunday, Nov 22 2009 

Oh. My. God.  My house smells fantastic.  By far the worst part of living in the house that hosts Thanksgiving is the tempation.  Both refrigerators have been crammed full of food for weeks.  Food I’m not allowed to touch.  Never again during the year is there this much cream, butter, cheese, sugar, deliciousness hanging around.  And for good reason – it is killing me.

Seeing as how I thoroughly enjoy making things too decadent to eat on a daily basis, I was granted the honor of making the pie I saw last month in Cooking Light and instantly began salivating over for Thanksgiving dinner.  Well, Thanksgiving dessert.  Even though, really, I could eat this for dinner and be thrilled with my life.

I know what you’re thinking (Don’t I always?): how could Cooking Light remake pecan pie so that it was both delicious and less fattening?  The answer is this: it’s still well over 300 calories per slice, and there’s still a cup of dark corn syrup in it.  This is not diet food, my friends.  This is fabulous food.

Needless to say, it’s not Thursday, so you’ll have to check back later in the week to see for sure that it tasted fantastical, but I’m just saying this: it looks and smells like heaven. And if you haven’t finalized your menu yet, may I make a recommendation?  Include this.  Kthanksbye.

 

 

Pumpkin Scones Saturday, Nov 21 2009 

Are you counting down the days till I stop talking about pumpkin?  While my beer tastes have progressed to deeply dark, heavily spiced, warming brews, my culinary tendencies are still lingering over pumpkin – and probably will be until it becomes December, the season of gingerbread.  I can feel you rolling your eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve always been mildly terrified of scones.  They’ve always seemed prissy and fussy, and not at all like something I’d be able to create in my kitchen.  Pastry always gets me that way, and I’m not sure why.  A recipe is a recipe, but it’s all the italized “make sure the butter is cold” and the numerous bowls and funny words like “slurry” that make me quickly pass those recipes by.  I don’t have time for fuss (says the girl who will tolerate multiple bread-risings), especially on a weeknight, which is when I chose to make these scones.  But the recipe seemed too perfect – I just happened to have leftover heavy cream and pumpkin, both of which needed to be used up soon.

Of course, I have to mess with even the most perfect recipes, and this one was no exception.  I changed out all the white flour for whole wheat and decreased the cream, sugar, and butter (I know, I know, all the best parts are gone), upped the pumpkin, and added toasted hazelnuts.  And for all the substitutions?  Well, let’s just say that even Brother ate one.  And Brother eats nothing that I like.

Pumpkin Scones

Adapted from Pinch My Salt

 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground ginger

4 tbsp unsalted butter

2/3 cup pumpkin puree

Scant 1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut the butter into small pieces, and refrigerate until you’re ready to use them.  In another bowl, combine flour and wheat germ, baking powder, salt, and all the spices.  Whisk together.  Refrigerate this as well.

In separate bowl, combine pumpkin, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla.  Whisk together.  Get all of the bowls out of the fridge, and combine the butter and flour, cutting them together with a pastry blender until they resemble course crumb.  Stir in the nuts.

All at once, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.  Mix everything together, then turn out the dough onto the counter and push it together to form a dough.  Knead it if necessary, then pat it into a rough circle, about 1 inch thick.  Cut it (as you would a pie) into 16 pieces.

Place all the scones onto the baking sheet, and bake until the bottom is golden and they are completely set.  Cool completely.

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