Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving thanks for ample amounts of food

I know you have to be holding your breath, waiting for me to reveal what I ate for Thanksgiving. Well, sadly I worked on Thanksgiving (such is the profession I joined and the propensity of my boss to schedule for every single holiday that he can possibly come up with). Thankfully, my dad was able to visit the week before, and I decided to have a Thanksgiving-esque feast to commemorate (and cause I love cooking food).

  • Apple-cranberry pork roast
  • Candied sweet potatoes
  • Red-skinned mashed potatoes (no photo)
  • Green bean casserole (no photo)
  • Orange-cranberry sauce
  • Spaghetti Squash gratin
Most of these are straightforward recipes, but I will include photos of all and recipes for the the three things that I had never made before.

First, the easiest: Apple-cranberry pork roast.
Line the bottom of a crock pot with a layer of onion slices and a layer of apple (peeled) slices. Place pork roast (any cut you want, with fat trimmed out. Leave the bone in, but don't forget to take it back out). Cover roast with chopped cranberries and more apple slices. Whisk salt, pepper, 1/4 cup of honey, 1/4 of apple cider and a 1/4 of orange juice. Pour mix over it. It will look like this:

Pretty, right? Next, cover and turn the pot on high for about two hours. At this point I pull out the bone, flip the meat and turn it down to low. Cook until it's done or you are ready to eat. Baste occassionally. It will look like this when its done:

Everything breaks down and makes an amazing sauce that is sweet and tangy and savory. It works on top of the mashed potatoes I made (no picture sorry.)

Next, I made spaghetti Squash gratin. Roast the squash however you like (I cut it in half, place it cut side down on a backing sheet and put it in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until it's tender.) Scoop out the filling. In a big bowl mix it with:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 t. dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, divided
Pour into pans and bake in the broiler uncovered until it keeps lightly browned on top.

I put a garnish of chopped tomatoes sauteed in garlic, basil and oregano on each serving just because it needed some acid to break through the richness of the cream.

I also made classic candied sweet potatoes (below). I chose to use real sweet potatoes as opposed to canned. It really did make a difference in the flavor and texture.

Lastly I made homemade cranberry sauce with the extra cranberries that I didn't use in the roast.

Here's the recipe since I had never made this before. The others I sort of made up myself, but this one I wanted to get right.

Orange-Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Yield: About 3 cups
1 pound (about 4 cups) cranberries
1- 3/4 cups white sugar
1/4 dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 cup triple sec
1/8 cup orange juice
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in a buttered 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake until cranberries are tender and sugar is dissolved, stirring once, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven, carefully remove the foil and allow the cranberry sauce to cool completely. Refrigerate cranberry sauce until well chilled. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead.)

My favorite thing I did with this sauce, was when it was still warm, I put it over vanilla ice cream. AWESOME. Definitely do this!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's all in the details...

Or so they say. So in our wedding planning, we've been starting small. Ridiculously small. We've compiled tiny details here and there, but nothing big has been decided not even the date. We haven't even written anything down. And so, here's a list of these details, lest I forget:

Detail number 1: We want calla lilies to be the dominant flower, likely supported by cheap, locally grown flowers. We'll probably buy in bulk and then make up our own arrangements. I mean really, why pay for someone to do something you can do just as well?

Speaking of arrangements, we've touched on the topic of vases, and I think we'll be searching thrift stores/garage sales and the like for random shapes, sizes and colors (mason jars and creative stuff would be cool too), so if you ever see one for real cheap (thrift is better than new here) feel free to grab it. We're talking price tags of no more than 2 or 3 dollars, tops.

Detail number 2: Outside. It was one of the first details we settled on and this is about the only big decision we've made so far. Both of us are close to nature and want to express that at the wedding. Plus, many of our adventures have involved going outside and exploring the world. I kind of picture an event with a huge tree as the focal point, with us right underneath. This decision is actually fairly big because it's pretty much gonna inform everything else, from the day to the actual place to costs and whatnot. In the end, it helped us decide on September as the month, though dates won't come until we actually narrow down where. We're looking at all the parks we can find in this area, and trying to figure out if this is feasible at all.

And that's it. We literally have no other ideas set in stone. There's a lot of questions surrounding this, but we seem sort of unable to actually get down to business and figure out what we want. We tend to decide to make a bunch of decisions, and then we look at one thing and sort of brainstorm about it, but come to no actual conclusion. It's probably not a good thing to put the two most indecisive people on the planet in charge of something like this.

For myself, I've tried to solve this by diving head first into the not-surprisingly ginormous fountain of information that is the wedding blogs currently floating around cyberspace. And while I tend to be inspired in the moment, it hasn't really come together into concrete plans for us. And I think the problem is the place. We can't really make any decisions at all until we find somewhere to have this shindig.

So in the meantime, what else have I been doing? Surprisingly, I've been drooling over wedding dresses. I know what you're thinking: The girl who's worn maybe 5 dresses in her lifetime (three of which were when I was, I don't know, 4 years old or so) is getting excited about a wedding dress, which I've always said is possibly the worst dress purchase ever made by a woman. But as Travis has recently been telling me (mostly when I apologize for watching Project Runway and America's Next Top Model): "You're allowed to be a girl, you know? I'm pretty sure this would not be working out if you weren't a chick."

And so, I offer recent drool-worthy dresses that I could see myself wearing:

1) The first is one from Eden Bridals. The company has many that I would wear at a reasonable price, too. For this one, I love the sleeves (LOVE THEM, like seriously), the bodice and the buttons down the back. The only thing that bothers me is that the train is a little long. How am I supposed to boogie on down with that (And trust me, there will be boogie-ing!)?

2) My next favorite is also from Eden Bridals (see what I mean by liking pretty much anything they are dishing out?) It can be found here. I like the criss-cross of the bodice, and I prefer the lace on this one to the diamond studded details on the first one, and I would much rather have this small train than the longer one. I miss the sleeves though, and the back on this one is a little bit more revealing than I would have like.

Instead of cluttering up my blog with even more photos, I'll just link the the others that I'm currently liking:

3) This one is from Alyce designs and is pretty bohemian. It was the first dress I liked when I found it, but now it's sort of dropped down the list.

4) I'm not sure why I'm drawn to this one (click the link, then go to Style 7113) so much. It seems a little over the top for me, and yet I really like it. Maybe the corset style waist? Or the sheer halter? It's pretty to look at, even if I'm pretty sure I would NEVER be able to pull it off.

What have I learned in my browsing so far? Well, there's a category universally known as "destination dresses." These are your dresses with a less is more attitude, and I prefer that. The bohemian look, with simple fabrics and small details, is the look for me. Giant poofy skirts, sleeveless dress and too much going on are no-no's for me. Also, most designers don't have stores. You have to find them in a bridal warehouse of sorts, or find them elsewhere online. The likelihood of finding these exact dresses is low (I assume) but who wants to join me at a few of the local places and see if I can find something I like?