Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving, For Better Or Worse.

The Turkey, Jackson, NH, November 2010. 
Everything seems like a lot right now, but Thanksgiving did still happen.
One more drawing from last year. Blah blah blah holidays are very weird when you recently lose someone.
Not sure what I can personally handle for Christmas this year, but I feel good about decorating, I think. I guess you just do what feels right in these moments, i.e. I want to hang lights all over the house & have a giant tree & cover everything in glitter & but I honestly can't see opening presents without Gramma. 
Doesn't make sense, I know. But all the decorating crap seems peaceful, but I kind of want to skip out on the actual day this year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting In The Thanksgiving Spirit, aka Cranberry Sauce & Stuffing & Gravy.

Well, it will be Thanksgiving the day after tomorrow. After some (hopefully brief) hours in Grocery Hell, I get to pack up my husband & my dog in the car (sorry DustyRose but you are not a good traveler), & drive to Cape Cod to see my family & eat good things.
 Thanksgiving 2010: The Sides, Part Two.
The (homemade by mum, always) cranberry sauce, the stuffing, & the garlicky green beans.
I lied. These sides are important too.
Anyway, I whine & moan a lot, but I'm grateful. Very very grateful, & looking forward to home tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving almost.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgivings Past & Future.

Apparently I am about a year behind in current events on this blog, as I never finished my drawings from last Thanksgiving.
Well, never say never-I just finished one. I drew this last November, in Jackson, NH, the same house where we spent our honeymoon. 
Thanksgiving 2010: The Sides, Part One. 
aka the MOST important Thanksgiving sides, mashed potatoes & creamed onions. More important than turkey or stuffing (although stuffing is pretty damn important).
Last year was an atypical Thanksgiving, in that Owen & I joined my moms in New Hampshire in a borrowed house in a beautiful place. 
This year is different in that we Diamonds lost a terribly important family member in September & one week later Owen & got married. 
It's a rather emotional holiday, I think for all of us. I can barely even write this, really, so no details. 
This year Thanksgiving will be at home, in Brewster, on Cape Cod, with new family but with a huge absence, too. 
All I meant to say here was, cheers to Thanksgiving (the sacred holiday of EnD), & all it brings.
& Gramma, I'm missing you a lot, everyday, even if I'm not so good at talking about it. But neither were you, really.

Snowy October Driveway Breakfast Sandwiches.

I mentioned the Great New England Halloween Weekend Snowstorm/Power Outage.  Where we cooked lentil soup outside & ate it in the dark? Well, here's breakfast, i.e., another chance for me to mention the overwhelming life importance of a good breakfast sandwich.
10.30.2011: Weather Related Outdoor Breakfast. 
I can't say we suffered anything truly unpleasant at all, but it was the longest time I have been without power in my adult life (two days, I know, boo hoo) & I have lived through hurricanes in New Orleans. We never lose power in our current apartment for more than a few minutes, so when the lights went out of Saturday night it seemed so very temporary.
By Sunday morning, after having got ready for work at 6am by candle light, walked to downtown to get the car from the stupid snow emergency lot (curse this town & the asinine snow parking regulations-don't get me started) called my boss at home & work several times to see if we were open, driven to work when I got no response, then found out we were closed, then got back to a cold apartment with no stove...well Owen figuring out to to fry eggs & toast bagels over a propane burner in the driveway was pretty freaking cheering.
A good hot breakfast goes a long way. It certainly helped me appreciated the day off work (& the day post-storm was a gorgeous, gorgeous day) & not really care that we didn't have light (or heat, but hey, I dug out the wool blankets & wore several of Owen's flannel shirts at once).
& the dog enjoyed eating the snow after Owen rinsed out the frying pan. Good times were, as you can see, had by all.
Breakfast sandwiches. They rule. You know, several were eaten during the purchase of my car, present in the driveway during this escapade.
Now that's the circle of life, right there.

Butternut Squash #2: With Homemade Sausage In A Lasagna Thing.

As promised, the skipped #2.
10.27.2011: Butternut Squash Week #2: 
 A sort of lasagna, with alternating layers of thinly sliced butternut squash, homemade spicy pork sausage, crushed red chilis, red sauce, garlic, onions, & boursin, burrata (cream filled mozzarella), & parmesan. Served over pasta.
I just made this up. I like making up lasagna type things, or so I call them, they are usually only lasagnas in the sense that they involve layers (remember bacon as noodles?)
But truly, who doesn't prefer meat noodles to past noodles? 
Basically, it is fun to throw a bunch of different meats & veggies into a cast iron dutch oven & bake them & cover the whole mess with cheese. I made a lovely lasagna last fall with butternut squash & homemade green tomato sauce we had canned from the abundance of green tomatoes we produced in our garden in 2010. My favorite vegetarian main course is a pesto & mashed potato lasagna.
On this particular night, we had butternut squash, of course, & we had the same homemade pork sausage that went into this meal.
No recipe. Just layers layers layers. Use what you have-this a great way to get rid of random grocery items in the fridge in a delicious fashion. 
One of the first things I ever learned to cook & still one of my top three comfort foods (eggplant parm, curry, tuna casserole) was my mom's eggplant parmesan & maybe that's why I like layers of vegetables & meat & cheese & sauce so much.
I think. I know we never had recipe #7, but once we had power & you could buy groceries again, we moved on. Blame it on the power outage. We do still have squash, so maybe I'll do one more, but no promises, since that week is long over. 
Six out of seven ain't bad, though, right?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Butternut Squash #6: Risotto.

11.1.2011: Butternut Squash Week #6:
 Risotto, with butternut squash, homemade chicken stock, white wine, garlic, butter, herbs de provence& all that good stuff. 
The first night that we were kitchen back to normal after the snow storm/power outage. We still hadn't really shopped, because while we had power, a lot of people didn't, & stores didn't really have food back yet & we were avoiding mayhem. & it was still The Great Butternut Squash Food Challenge Of 2011. !!!
We had a mason jar of risotto, homemade chicken stock that we had actually canned in the pressure cooker so didn't lose due to lack of refrigeration, butter that was already in the freezer, & white wine, so, a truly whatever the heck do we make for dinner night turned into a gorgeous meal. 
There you go. Use what you have. It's like painting with random materials as a broke art student, only you get to eat, too. 

Butternut Squash #4/5: With Red Lentils In Soup (In The Dark).

10.29.2011: Butternut Squash Week #4/5:
 Butternut squash & red lentil soup, with homemade chicken stock, cumin, ginger paste, crushed chilis & curry powder, & onions, garlic, & yukon gold potatoes, served with Boursin, eaten in the dark two nights in a row during the Great October New England Snowstorm/Power outage.
It was a few days before Halloween in Massachusetts, on a Saturday. A potential couple of feet of snow is bizarrely predicted. We get the dog walked & head back to the house, snow starts falling around 2pm, & I decide to make soup, just in case the power goes out later & we lose a lot of food & our ability to cook (electric stove). Good call. Power went out around six that night & didn't return for two days. We ate the soup Saturday night by candle light, & Sunday night by candle light once more after reheating it in the snowy driveway over the propane burner for our turkey fryer.
Thank god my husband is a redneck, with a blow torch (to make coffee) & a propane burner to reheat soup & cook eggs in the driveway. & for a huge pot of delicious soup. & for Cheezits which accompanied Sunday nights dinner & are one of my biggest guilty pleasures. When in difficult times, go to Cheezits. These are the things you are thankful for when you have no light, heat, or stove & your work doesn't tell you work is cancelled so you have to drive there to find out. Blah. Did I mention I love Cheezits?
The soup is itself, pretty basic: onions & garlic simmered in butter/small amount of bacon, add ginger paste, cumin, & curry powder, crushed chili peppers, salt & pepper, then add chicken stock, red lentils, & potatoes, bring to a boil, add cubed butternut squash, simmer for the rest of the afternoon while it snows, conveniently in a cast iron enamel pot that can also work on a outside propane flame.
My classic red lentil ginger soup, really, but with butternut squash! Because it was still The Great Butternut Squash Food Challenge Of 2011.  (Theme: classic recipes of mine, with butternut squash). Also, we eat lentil soup during natural disasters in this family!  
It's just that during some of them, the power actually goes out.
It was dark, but we managed to eat well, & the hound dog & tiger kitten kept us warm. Whiskey helped too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Butternut Squash #3: In Thai Green Curry With Chicken.

More with the foods, & the making of them, & the continuation of The Great Butternut Squash Food Challenge Of 2011.  
10.28.2011: Butternut Squash Week #3:
 Thai Green Curry with coconut milk, butternut squash, chicken & our garden thai chilis & lemongrass, over basmati rice.
(Note: I did not skip Butternut Squash #2, I just didn't finish the illustrations in order. Not how I roll, numerical order). 
So, another classic recipe of mine, continuing the theme. Curries, all curries, are very high up there for me when it comes to comfort food.  I cook a curry at least three night a week, & I do it differently every time. I've never added winter squash, but it worked well added to a basic version of my Thai Green Curry.
To start, make rice, to be authentic use jasmine, but we tend to buy rice in 20lb bags so usually just have white basmati & some brown short grain on hand. Roasted a split butternut squash in the oven. In a heavy duty sauce pan, start cooking onions, garlic, & chopped chilis (lucky we grew some beautiful thai chilis in the garden this year) in coconut oil. Add some green thai curry paste (I use this one), some curry powder, chopped lemongrass (which we also grew in the garden & currently still have growing in a pot in our kitchen), fresh chopped ginger root, shrimp paste, sriracha & fish oil. I used about a half of a habanero from our garden too, but adjust the spiciness to taste, obviously. I prefer crazy spicy. Throw in chicken pieces & potatoes, make sure they get thoroughly coated with the coconut oil seasoning mixture. Add two cans of coconut milk, then added chopped pre-roasted butternut squash. Cook until squash pretty much dissolves into the coconut milk, serve over rice, & eat. Perfect. 
Note: many of the ingredients in this curry, & also the basic ingredients of my life, are purchased here, at the International Market in Hadley.  
I have been shopping there for about ten years & even though they still feel they need to warn us about food white people won't like, too fishy, too spicy,  (yet we do), I love it there. 
The true genius of curries is that they are so flexible. I made a decent one with chicken thighs, broccoli, 1/2 & 1/2, various spices, chili peppers & potatoes in a cast iron wok the other night exhausted after a long work day & without grocery shopping & I'd rather eat that than most restaurant food & it took very little time or effort, in fact, it really cheered me up.
There in is the beauty of food. 
This particular curry was delicious, by the way, I definitely recommend the squash addition.

Butternut Squash #1: Stuffed, With (Homemade) Sausage & Wild Rice.

& now, back to the cooking! Sorry about all that whining the other day. I've pulled it together, i.e. the house isn't so bad, I did some laundry, I paid the bills, I had a lovely night of wine & food with a lovely friend, & I've actually done quite a bit of watercoloring at the kitchen table.
We bought a bushel of butternut squash for our wedding-you know, you are trying to feed a lot of people cheaply & you live in New England & it's fall, you end up with winter squash. Of course, because we have very helpful & food oriented families, we ended up with way too much food & didn't use the squash.
Forward to about a month after the wedding-we are kind of broke & Owen & I have been driving around with both our cars full of butternut squash for weeks. The only solution was The Great Butternut Squash Food Challenge Of 2011, where we made a new meal out of those pesky car squashes every night for roughly a week instead of buying new ingredients.
10.26.2011: Butternut Squash Week #1: 
Stuffed with our homemade spicy pork sausage, wild rice cooked in homemade duck stock, garden shallots, garlic, & rosemary, lots of butter, & raw milk Parmesan cheese.
This is one of my all-time classic recipes. That was another theme of The Butternut Squash Challenge, classic well loved recipes. Winter squash is really versatile, & lends itself to whatever you feel like cooking already. I invented this for a date, once upon a time ago, I made it at my birthday dinner party two years ago, & I made it for the lovely Melissa last night, because we STILL have stray squashes rolling around in our cars.
Obviously, this works with any squash, & I rather prefer acorns, delicata, or dumplings, but hey, the whole bushels of butternuts was cheaper & it's really pretty much the same.
Split squashes, roast with olive oil. Cook a basic wild rice blend, I like the Lundenberg Organic blend but a mix of short grain brown rice & wild works too, preferably in a poultry basic stock (I like duck stock). Meanwhile saute shallots, garlic, rosemary & herbs de provence in butter & white wine. Add sausage (for this we had some of our first ever batch of homemade sausage). Add rice & more stock. Simmer. Add to squash, cover with cheese, whatever you like, but I like parm or gruyere or swiss. Back in the oven, then eat! Fun times.
Yeah by the way, we have been making our own sausages, thanks to our wedding present Kitchen Aid stand mixer & wedding present meat grinding & sausage stuffing attachments. Just week Owen boned an entire turkey (turkeys are real cheap at Stop & Shop right now) & it became variously flavored turkey sausage. Being poor ain't so bad. 
AS long as you use what you have-i.e. turning cheap meat in awesome sausage & making stock from the bones. 
There you have it-Stuffed Squash, liz style. 
11.4.2011: dog & cat. 
Oh, & that's just a picture of my dog & cat.
For good measure.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

These (Mildly) Difficult Modern Times.

It's been a rather exhausting couple of weeks here at EnD headquarters, i.e. a messy apartment in Northampton. Tons o' work stress, money stress, car stress etc. Blah. I've actually found myself absolutely too tired & cranky to even feel like cooking recently (very unlike me). I miss the garden. I hate when it gets dark at five. I'm sick of every single expense, like toilet paper & toothpaste,  for crying out loud, being a huge deal. I'm sick of not being allowed to get sick or miss any work for any reason because I earn our only income. I'm sick of doing all the cleaning because no one else cares. I don't want to get up at 6am while everyone is sleeping & still come home in the almost dark.
Whine whine whine. Not real problems, I know.
Still, sometimes I feel like maybe it would be cool to not be the one responsible for everyone's survival. I want to call out of work & go to the mall & buy fancy eyeshadow at Sephora & 20 cute dresses at Forever 21.
Sigh. Poor me, I know, I'm stupid. I have no real problems, &
I do have this.
11.4.2011: Dog Cat Husband.
So I guess that although we are pretty broke, my job is pushing me to the limit of reasonable tolerance right now, & the house is really dirty, I get to have this sweet family. & last night I made a really basic chicken & potato curry & felt a little more like myself. Cooking heals many wounds. Note to self: when depressed, purchase some inexpensive but still luxury cooking item (in this case, short grain brown rice & chicken thighs). Then cook dinner. Possibly listen to the Mountain Goats even though my husband hates them. Repeat.
I look forward to Thanksgiving. & I've seen some mad crazy gorgeous sunsets en route to work lately, so I guess that's also something.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bacon Honeymoon (or bacon makes a good thing even better).

You know. It's always all about bacon around here. Even on my honeymoon, apparently.
We received, at least for us, a very fitting wedding present, which was the use of a beautiful house in a breathtaking setting in which we could spend a week with just us & our sweet hound dog. We have never lived together without at least two & sometimes four roommates. Alone time is very valuable to us. We love to cook, we love hiking & mountains, & therefore being out in the woods with a fabulous kitchen at our disposal & a fireplace & a mountain in the backyard was pretty much perfect (thanks deb & cate!).
September 2011: The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich + Gift Lasagna. 
Some people would take their wedding cash & go out to eat, but we didn't. We were really excited about being alone in our own (temporary) house for once. Our own house is our biggest dream right now. so, yeah, cooking by ourselves! ! ! That said, we hate to waste food, so we didn't go crazy grocery shopping. Basically, we started with wedding leftovers (onions, potatoes, butternut squash, crackers, cheese, eggs, & butter) & we locally purchased really good bacon, a steak, broccoli, & bagels.
Two themes immediate emerged: the need for a serious breakfast if you begin every day hiking up a mountain with your dog, & lasagna, which a very sweet wedding guest (thanks jim!) brought us for "the cabin." (it really wasn't a cabin, it was a gorgeous six bedroom redone farmhouse that even Martha would be jealous of.)
So we, discovered bacon, parmesan, & onions on a bagels is a seriously kickass breakfast sandwich.
I consider a good breakfast sandwich a life staple. Eggs & meat & cheese on a bagel please me. 
& although we didn't actually want to bring the lasagna with us (all we wanted to do was cook) there was definitely a night (after a long adventure in New Hampshire auto mechanics & pouring rain) that we were very content to curl up by the fire & reheat that thing. Obviously, we were unable to resist making it a lot better with additional cheese, broccoli, ample garlic, & of course bacon. I really can't totally not cook.
So, yeah, our honeymoon, bacon, mountains, dogs. That happened.
Oh, did you hear we in Western Massachusetts had a serious snowstorm before Halloween & the power went out everywhere for days & days? Next: EnD cooks breakfast sandwiches on a propane burner in the snowy driveway. True story.