Tag Archives: dessert

Thanksgiving

21 Nov

I wanted to give you a few ideas for Thanksgiving, easily my favorite holiday of the year. I wrote last year about Christmas which, as an overall season, certainly is the my favorite. But when it comes to a single holiday, Thanksgiving reigns supreme.

There is no better day to throw open wide the doors of your home and ask everyone in. I’ve been doing this for years, in different forms, and it is always one of the best days of the year. Last year we sat 35 people at a single table. (Creating an”L” shape was the only way to make it work.) We had a blast and so can you. Here’s a picture of the table before the chaos began:

Thanksgiving Table 2013

Thanksgiving Table 2013

Note that you don’t have to have plates or silverware or anything that matches. Who cares?! If you can’t create such a long table, no worries!  You can do your meal buffet style, as we used to do in my home growing up. We have a huge extended family and would sometimes have many more than 35. Using paper plates, then sitting anywhere we could find, the holiday was just as wonderful. So don’t let anything deter you. It’s about food and fellowship. Whatever you space you have, it will work. 

I like starting this type of meal in the late afternoon. You have plenty of time during the day to get ready, it’s less stressful than trying to get everything ready by noon. Do some of your prep the days before, you might even work in an afternoon nap before people show up! Also, the meal can be eaten after dark, by candlelight. We do cocktails and appetizers at 5, then finally hit the table between 6:00 and 6:30.

For me, there is only one way to get through such a day and maintain my sanity: a list. Below is an example of the type of list I create. I spend a lot of time on it the night before, making sure it works perfectly. Then on Thanksgiving itself, I don’t have to think much, I just follow the list. Subsequently, I can enjoy myself the day of. My iPhone or kitchen timers tell me when I need to do something. I follow the list and it enables me to spend at least a little time talking with people before we all end up at the table.  This was last year’s list:

Survive the day list

Survive the day list

I also refrain from drinking until we sit, to make sure all the food comes out right. You can be assured, however, there is a rather large martini waiting in the freezer. As soon as people start filling their plates in the kitchen, martini is out and in the shaker. Then in the glass. Then I am off and running to catch up. (I don’t worry so much about dessert. It pretty much handles itself.)

It’s a genuine pleasure to open your home and have both people you love as well as friends of friends come over. Of course, that is not the main reason Thanksgiving is the best. Thanksgiving is my favorite because it is All. About. The. Food. So let’s talk some food, people!

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Dessert

10 Oct
Chocolate Pots de Creme

Chocolate Pots de Creme

I grew up in one of those neighborhoods that now must seem alien to many. We had a lot of kids in the neighborhood, quite a few my own age and we all pretty much ran free with little or no oversight. In the summertime, for instance, it was not strange to leave home after breakfast only to return in time for dinner without ever checking in during the day. Sure, you might run home for lunch but given all the kids and all the houses, it was easy to snag lunch somewhere.

As for dinner, our family ate late. Dinner was never earlier than 7:30 PM and was often later, given my dad worked long hours. Also, no matter what time Dad came home, he and Mom had a cocktail before dinner. This was one of two special times Mom and Dad took each day to be alone and enjoy one another. It was their time to connect, something I’ve always appreciated about them as a couple. (The other time was having coffee together early in the morning.) Personally, I didn’t mind a late dinner. A food fanatic even then, I realized the benefit of eating late. I could snag an invite to dinner at a friend’s house at a more regular hour, then head on home for dinner #2.

Sometimes life is good.

Around the time I was 10, a new family moved to the neighborhood, The Tuckers. There were two children, Marcus and Robin. (Robin was great, too! But, you know, we were ten, she was a few years younger, and a girl.)  Marcus was my age and a great guy. He immediately was a big part of the gang running around the neighborhood. We all learned quickly that the Tuckers ate dinner at 6 PM religiously every night. Unlike some of us, in the Tucker household it was a rule that the family sat down together every night, no matter what. Even if we kids were in the middle of, say, a very important game of baseball or hide and seek, Marcus would run home exactly at 6, eat dinner, then soon after run back out to continue to play in the twilight of the evening.

I snagged a lot of 6 PM meals at the Tuckers. Marcus’ mom was a wonderful woman with a beautiful smile and an incredibly infectious laugh. She was also a terrific cook. While I had many a great dinner at their house, the first one remains vivid in my memory for a very specific reason.

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Food for your 4th

27 Jun

Ah, the 4th of July. Fireworks, friends, family… and food. What can be better? Particularly when the 4th is on a Thursday, which means you will probably take off Friday, which means a four day weekend, which means four full days of fireworks, friends, family and food. So with out my usual prefatory rambling, I give you a plethora of food (and drink) for your holiday weekend.

DRINKS

* POMEGRANATE COSMOS

While I myself am partial to a Martini (click here!) or a Manhattan, I came up with this twist on a regular cosmopolitan for friends who like something a little less intense than either of my favorites but not as icky sweet as most “fru-fru” cocktails. These Pomegranate Cosmos are very tasty with a nice surprise kick from Limoncello. They are also gorgeous to present. I usually make a pitcher full, they go that quickly, but you can make them one at a time. Be sure to use fresh pomegranate juice. I once used juice from a jar and the result was terrible. Pom Wonderful is indeed wonderful and worth getting for this drink. 

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

How to:

Mix 1 part vodka with 2 parts Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice.  (I usually do half and half but let’s start easy.)

Add Roses Lime and Limoncello. If you are making a single drink, a healthy splash of each will do. If you are making a pitcher, a few healthy glugs of each is called for. Then add fresh lime juice following the same principle.

Stir it up and taste!  If you want it sweeter, add more Roses. If you want more of a kick, which people like, add limoncello. If you want it, um, stronger, add vodka. Stir and taste, stir and taste, it’s part of the fun of making this drink.

If you are making a pitcher, mix it early and stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Then you can pour right out of the pitcher… or go ahead and cocktail shaker each drink anyway to get it freezing cold and impress your guests. Definitely use a shaker for single servings. Don’t forget the fresh squeezed lime juice in the drink and a lime wedge as a garnish. Fresh pomegranate seeds are an excellent garnish in the drink, just three or four per cocktail.

MAIN DISHES

* GRILLED MEATS

Most people will be grilling, of course. I love grilling sausages and/or baby lamb chops. If you do lamb chops, find a rack of lamb you can cut into individual riblets. Cut them into the riblets then marinate them overnight in olive oil, salt and pepper, minced garlic, lemon juice and thyme. Then grill… not too much! Simplicity is always best and lamb chops/riblets prepared this way are divine. If you grill sausages, get a bunch of different kinds. And be sure to make aioli on the side. This is a must. If you watch the video below, you will see it can be ridiculously easy. I used to make aioli by hand, which takes a lot of effort but the result was worth it, so I suffered through it weekly. Now I get the same wonderful result in less than a minute. Check this video:

If you want to make something amazing that takes a little more effort than grilling sausages and lamb chops, make

* SUZANNE GOIN’S PORK BURGERS

I posted about these once before but they are so good, I am posting the recipe again because they are the perfect 4th of July food and because you simply must try these. I’ve made these pork burgers every 4th of July the last few years. They are amazing. I’ll say it a third time… these are amazing. Be sure to make the Romesco, it’s a must and I always add aioli to the burgers. Just make the damn aioli. The recipe for these burgers can be found at another wonderful food blog I encourage you to check out, Food Gal, written by the extremely talented Carolyn Jung:

Pork Burger Recipe

Burger

** Here is another good look at this amazing way to make Aioli.

SIDES

* WHEAT BERRY SALAD

Another favorite of mine. This Wheat Berry Salad is fresh, healthy, tastes great and is an excellent base for all kinds of variations. I love using wheat berries because even when fully cooked, wheat berries have a soft but hearty pop in your mouth.  You can easily substitute barley or farro, or any grain you like. If you are gluten-free, try quinoa… or just eliminate the grain and make a tossed vegetable salad. 

You can also substitute your own favorite herbs and vegetables. The recipe below is a guideline, though if you follow it you will get a wonderful salad. Note: I tend to do all my vegetables raw in this salad, but feel free to roast the peppers and asparagus first. Just not too much. You want a good crunch.

WheatBerry1

Wheat Berry Salad ingredients

How to:

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Healthy Crack

12 May

I practice and teach yoga, which is not as weird as it sounds…unless you are as I was before I took a yoga class. Back then I had the idea that yoga was people in a room kind of stretching but mostly burning incense, chanting and smoking the devil’s lettuce. While there might actually be some yoga classes out there where this occurs, for the most part yoga is a brutal, kick-ass workout that puts even the most ‘manly of men’ on the floor begging for a break. It’s particularly true of the yoga I practice and teach, Bikram Yoga, which is yoga practiced in a room heated to a minimum 105 degrees.

The point of this is that practicing and teaching yoga over the last eight years has led me to explore some healthy lifestyle choices I previously would have ignored or dismissed, given I was raised in a family with many doctors. I’ve done quite a shift from West to East in terms of medicine and health. I’ve tried chiropracty (awesome) and acupuncture (effective but for me it was a little intense.) I’ve also explored a variety of approaches to food from various cleanses (I love The Master Cleanse, I also enjoy juice cleanses) to Vegan and Raw foods. I once even ‘went raw’ for about 3 months, which means all I ate was raw food. I really enjoyed it, though to eat raw full time is a much bigger time commitment than one might think. I initially thought it would be easy: no cooking! But to eat quality raw food full time takes quite a bit of planning and preparation. You certainly feel healthy, alive and full of energy eating only raw, though.

I don’t eat raw full time now… clearly. But I still love raw food. For those who are thinking a raw diet sounds weird, here are some examples of raw food: Guacamole. Pico De Gallo. Most green salads. Tapenade. Many cheeses. Sushi. Crudite. Fruit salad. Many smoothies. Pesto (sans the cheese, or with raw cheese). Gazpacho. Bruschetta (no bread, I just eat it with a spoon, terrific.) These are just a few of the regular foods most of us eat that are raw. And wonderful. Guacamole!!!!! oh my. Don’t discount raw.

Today, then, I want to give you two of my favorite raw recipes. Both are easy. The second one takes a little prep but once you’ve done the prep, it is very easy the rest of the week…or as long as the ingredients last, which may not be very long! Both also are insanely good. So good, in fact, that friends and I have termed them ‘crack’ because they are so addicting. While I mostly eat either of these in the morning for breakfast, when I am not, you know, scarfing down eggs, they both can be eaten anytime of the day. As a meal. As a snack. As a pre-egg appetizer! And both work wonderfully as healthy dessert. Give them a try and let me know what you think. And let us know if you have raw foods you enjoy eating already.

RAW FRUIT AND NUT PARFAIT

 

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