Thanksgiving geeking

Thanksgiving geeking, one of my favorite things!

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!)

Dinners with mom, for real

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.

Pantry Cooking Project, Day 7

Day 7 of the project; still plenty of food in the house

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.



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

Pantry Cooking Project, Day 3

What to drink when you don’t want to buy drinks at work.

Growing up, our beverage choice at dinner was usually water or water. We drank a lot of water in our house. Sometimes there was juice or milk at breakfast or lunch, and in the summer, Country Time lemonade or instant Nestea iced tea (you do know to boycott Nestlé, right?), but usually, it was water, and it’s still my favorite beverage. Preferably cold with no ice, but I’m pretty flexible. Am I the only one who sees people using a garden hose and wants to go over and get a quick drink? Yeah, probably the only one over the age of seven.


These days, I still mostly drink water, but I’ve gotten in the habit at The Best Job Ever of buying a drink in the afternoon: usually sweet, usually caffeinated, usually cold. Today, it’s jasmine and honey iced tea with lychee jelly. Delicious. But I want to see about moving to homemade drinks for my afternoon treat. One of the main reasons I don’t do that is that I don’t want to deal with washing out a container, but maybe I can find one that’s wide enough that I can just wash it the way I would a drinking glass. I’ll be on the lookout.

Possible afternoon bring-along drinks:

ice water (feels like more of a treat than just water from the tap)
sweet iced tea
chia lemonade or other chia drink
V-8, tomato juice, Clamato (all faves, but in hot weather, they don’t tend to satisfy thirst as well for me)
[your suggestion here]

Food today:

Breakfast was delicious. Frozen O’Brien potatoes fried in oil; eggs over easy; a little sriracha; a cup of V-8; some yellow pepper strips.


Lunch was an embarrassment of food in packets. I had taken some ham out of the freezer to make sandwiches with, but it wasn’t thawed yet when I went to make my lunch in the morning, so I just grabbed some stuff to take.


Dinner was some really amazing cheeseburgers, with those awesome homemade buns. Mom often thinks we’re not eating enough meat, so she sends us boxes of meat from Omaha Steaks. These are their burgers, topped with melted Swiss cheese and caramelized onions. Usually, I eat half my burger and give James the other half, because I’m just not all that into big chunks of meat, but this time, I ate the whooooooole thing, and it was just. so. good.


Money spent on groceries today: $0
Money spent in restaurants today: $2.99 (project total $11.52)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, milk, hamburger patties

Pantry Cooking Project, Day 1

Day One of the Pantry Cooking project

Want to make me or my mother cry? Talk about that period after her divorce when she could barely afford to feed my brothers, and she herself went hungry a lot of times. She remembers feeding them pancakes because that was all there was, and the pain and humiliation on her face when she talks about that is almost more than I can bear, even these decades later.

Food is central in our lives, mine and mom’s—we talk every day, and those conversations always include questions about what the other is cooking, has cooked, will cook. But even for people who aren’t as food-focused as we are, it can be anxiety-producing not to have enough. I expect some of that anxiety to surface during this experiment, and it’s important for me to remember that it is my privilege that makes this something I can do without worrying that I really won’t have enough food. Any time I feel impoverished, I just have to remember that I’m part of a tiny percentage of the world’s people who have enough to eat every single day of their lives.

Today’s food:

Breakfast: Toasted homemade bread (James made this lovely pullman white); eggs over medium (because I left them too long); an orange.

breakfast photo

This was my packed lunch: A box of little tomatoes; jalapeno-cheddar Cheetos (I love those things!); an apple and a slice of Cheddar; a handful of walnuts

lunch photo

However, my actual lunch was sushi and tempura that my boss bought me to celebrate my graduation. I don’t take photos in restaurants, so you don’t get to see that. I also ate the Cheetos as an afternoon snack.

And speaking of not getting to see something, I had planned to make Mexican food for dinner, but I was too tired to bother when I got home, so James made grilled cheese sandwiches, and for mine, because he loves me, he put sliced tomato and onion, and served it alongside some of those tomatoes I didn’t eat at lunch. As you can see, I forgot to take a picture until I was nearly done with dinner. Ah, well.


So no recipes today — all simple foods, nothing too complicated, but delicious nonetheless. Tomorrow’s planned dinner is miso noodle soup. We’ll see how it goes. Plans are great to have, but they have to give way to the realities of what’s happening in the moment.


Money spent on food today: $0
Money spent in restaurants today: $0
Food gifts received today: about $15 (project total $15)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream (evening snack)