Thanksgiving geeking

Mom has just invited three people to join us at Thanksgiving. That makes us seven total rather than four.

That’s more like it. :-)

Current menu:

Turkey/stuffing/giblet gravy
Ham/pineapple gravy
Potatoes Dauphinoise  (I use Dorie’s recipe)
Roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds
Sweet-potato casserole with pecans and maple syrup
Canned cranberry sauce
Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish
Relish tray
Pumpkin Pie
Lemon meringue pie
Marie-Helene’s apple cake

I think two roasts and three desserts are enough for seven people (yeah, I know). However, I’d like to add a side dish or two. Can’t decide between simple homemade dinner rolls and my friend Mirella-Pandora’s Angel’s Bread/cake.

And then I think Dorie Greenspan’s stuff-baked-in-pumpkin thing, which has been a hit in the past. I would serve soup in the pumpkin shell, as I’ve done in the past, but then I have to add bowls to the service, and I don’t think we have seven bowls handy. Hmm, tiny pumpkins as bowls? Buy cute bowls? Hmm.

My ears and mind are open. What would you add?

Pork loin dinner (sorry, no pics!)

I’m finally settled in at Mom’s. Well, for now. We moved here in October, and we’re here for good, because it was becoming hard to be of any help from five hundred miles away. We are staying in her guest room, which we renovated first, while our apartment is being renovated. It is SO nice to be near her, both to offer some help, and just to be closer and hang out with her.

I’ve been doing most of the cooking for the four of us: me, Mom, James, and my Uncle Ed, who moved in a couple years ago when my aunt died. I’m trying to make dinners that are homey, interesting, and diverse, so that everyone enjoys them and I have lots of veggies to eat. Tonight’s was a big hit with everyone: Very juicy roasted pork loin, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, steamed carrots/squash, and a salad. Even better than the food was the feeling I was nurturing my family and having a good time doing it.

The roast was super-easy. Just rubbed it with olive oil and spices, then put it into a pan in a preheated 450F oven until my probe thermometer said 135F. Pulled it and let it rest a few minutes until it reached a safe 140F before slicing. Very good.

The gravy was also very easy:

1) Slice onions and mushrooms (however many you want) and take out a saute pan that will hold them all — but it doesn’t have to be a saute pan; you can use a big stockpot, even, if you have to
2) Put some butter (anywhere from a tablespoon to several) into the saute pan and heat the pan on medium until the butter melts
3) Add the onions and mushrooms to the butter, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the top. If you have it, now’s the time to add a teaspoon of garlic granules or a chopped garlic clove.
4) Let them cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid cooks away, then add just enough chicken stock or water or heavy cream to barely cover, and let it come back to the simmer. If you used chicken stock or water, you’ll have to do step 5. If heavy cream, just continue to heat until it thickens a bit and you’re done.
5) In a little bowl, mix a tablespoon or two of cornstarch with a tablespoon or two of cold water. Add to the simmering gravy and stir constantly until it returns to the boil. As thick as it is now is as thick as it will be, so if you need to do it again (to make it thicker) or add water/stock (to make it thinner), do that now.

Homemade dips

I just posted this to my cooking group on Facebook and I wanted to save it here. May do posts about these later, and please feel free to point me to your own dip recipes.

 

I hate store-bought pre-made dips because they have some chemical in them that tastes off/sour to me. I used to do the Lipton onion soup dip thing, but no more. In general, we don’t use packets to make dip any more. We either eat salsa (store-bought or homemade) or I make the dip. They’re easier than I thought they would be before I started doing them. My go-to dips:

French onion: sour cream, dried onions, and something salty/umami: sometimes beef Better Than Buillon, but if we don’t have that, then oyster sauce, or failing that, just a bunch of salt and maybe a pinch of MSG (we’re not sensitive to it).

Green onion: Sour cream, sliced scallions, salt (or seasoned salt), LOTS of black pepper, and something acidic (some combination of lemon juice, vinegar, mayo).

Sour-cream salsa dip: Exactly what it sounds like

Nacho sauce: Make cheese sauce; best to use a screaming orange cheese so it looks right, but any cheese sauce will do. Add some pickled jalapenos that have been diced, along with some of the liquid from the jar.

Bean dip: Fry up some onions in oil/butter/water/whatever. Add refried beans (canned or homemade, pinto/black/whatever) and whatever salsa is on hand, along with whatever cheese is on hand. Heat through and serve.

Spinach dip: 1 cup sour cream; 1 cup mayo; 10 ounces spinach, cooked and drained well; 1 bunch green onions, chopped; 2-4 tablespoons dried onions or dried soup vegetables; salt and pepper to taste; 1 small can water chestnuts, chopped (optional).

Administrivia: New things are coming

New stuff is on its way, but I won’t bore you with a long post about it. Let’s just say that this blog, after three years (!) could use a facelift. Beginning September 1st, here’s a little taste of what will be new around here:

1) Daily, themed posts (Meatless Monday, Family Dinner Sunday, etc.)

2) A visual redesign

3) Free e-cookbooks and a preview of the book I’m working on (named, surprisingly, “The Mom Food Project”)

4) A new store where you can buy my favorite cookbooks and kitchen oddities

What won’t change:

1) We’ll still be ad-free

2) We’ll still be kind of eclectic and all over the place

3) We’ll still occasionally curse like sailors

Pantry Cooking Project, Day 7

Long, hard day. Here, have a photo!

This is dinner: macaroni with homemade spaghetti sauce, cooked green beans, and a salad of tomatoes, avocados, red peppers, olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar.

dinner

 

It’s day 7 of our project, and we’re nowhere near running out of food. We are still shopping, but only for veggies and coffee. I am still eating out a lot; not sure when I became a person who can’t go a week without buying prepared food. Good to know about myself, though!

Breakfast was an apple and a slice of cheddar. I took a cellphone photo of it, but it didn’t turn out.

Lunch was an avocado sandwich, a cold artichoke dipped in homemade mayo, and a pear. Later, a bought snack: cheese fries and an iced tea.

I forgot to post the week’s menu plan, so I may as well do that:

Monday (pasta): see above

Tuesday (Mexican): If I’m up for it, I’ll make flour tortillas and have soft tacos. Otherwise, it’s Spanish rice again, with beans and veggies (I bought tomatoes and cilantro today).

Wednesday (noodles): Peanut noodles with tofu

Thursday (sandwiches): Veggie burgers with homemade buns

Friday (stir-fry): Stir-fry seitan and rice and veggies

Saturday (chickpea gravy): chickpea gravy and potatoes

Sunday (anything I want to make): fish and chips

Money spent on groceries today: $30.70 (project total $86.56)
Money spent in restaurants: $7 (project total $99.76)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, hamburger patties, pork chops

Food isn't love. Feeding people is love.