Thanksgiving wrap-up

The fun began Wednesday night. For the cranberry sauce, we splashed a little spiced rum in with the cranberries, sugar, orange and cinnamon stick.

The fun began Wednesday night. For the cranberry sauce, we splashed a little spiced rum in with the cranberries, sugar, orange and cinnamon stick….

Here's the sheet of pecan squares before we cut them into squares. They are so insanely good. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 pounds of butter just in the shortbread layer.

Here’s the sheet of pecan squares before we cut them into squares. They are so insanely good. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 pounds of butter just in the shortbread layer.

Homemade spicy cocktail sauce plus a remoulade (mayo, ketchup, chopped cornichon and capers) with our Old Bay-seasoned shrimp.

Homemade spicy cocktail sauce plus a remoulade (mayo, ketchup, chopped cornichon and capers) with our Old Bay-seasoned shrimp.

Truffle butter under the skin, olive oil slathered on top, thyme, onion and garlic stuffed in the cavity. And still, it tasted like blah turkey. The meat was pretty juicy though.

Truffle butter under the skin, olive oil slathered on top, thyme, onion and garlic stuffed in the cavity. And still, it tasted like blah turkey. The meat was pretty juicy though.

My first completely homemade gravy. Not a single person ate it though! Salmon was definitely the hit of the afternoon.

My first completely homemade gravy. Not a single person ate it though! Salmon was definitely the hit of the afternoon..

The celery root puree and sausage-stuffed mushrooms both came out great. Keepers!

The celery root puree and sausage-stuffed mushrooms both came out great. Keepers!!

Miss Greta slyly sampled the cranberry sauce, kid-style -- which is to dip your finger in the serving bowl when no one is looking.

Miss Greta slyly sampled the cranberry sauce, kid-style — which is to dip your finger in the serving bowl when no one is looking….

My good little eater!

My good little eater!

Magnus and Uncle Taylor have a special bond. Two mischievous Green boys.

Magnus and Uncle Taylor have a special bond. Two mischievous Green boys

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

Our guests were gone by 4pm so we took the kids to see Frozen. It was really cute. Thumbs up. The snowman in the picture is "Olaf" from the movie.

Our guests were gone by 4pm so we took the kids to see Frozen. It was really cute. Thumbs up. The snowman in the picture is “Olaf” from the movie.

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Thanksgiving menu

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This year, we wanted to serve some non-traditional dishes in addition to the classic standards. In fact we considered chucking the turkey entirely in favor of a big roasted salmon. I mulled it over and just couldn’t get comfortable with no bird at Thanksgiving. And Greta has been talking about the wishbone for 11 months.

So here’s the menu my friends:

Shrimp cocktail (courtesy of my father in law) – A great, not too filling appy! Pairs well with any wine I’ll be having.

Roast turkey with truffle butter (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – Just a small 10-pounder to satisfy the traditionalist in me, and Greta gets her wishbone. In case you are wondering, yes, it was somewhat difficult to find truffle butter and it’s not cheap. Barrak found it at Whole Foods; $6 per small container.

Salt and pepper salmon (courtesy of Tyler Florence) – This is one of my tried and true salmon recipes – just salt, pepper, butter and a hot saute pan. Little known fact: Costco has really great salmon. You can buy big 2-pounders, cut it up into portions and freeze what you’re not using.

Celery root puree (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – Celery root is one of the ugliest vegetables on the planet. It looks like a really shaggy coconut pulled from the dirt — or a faceless muppet, round and craggy with a little green wig on top. Chop off the brown outer layer and it’s all white and potato-like in the middle. You just braise the celery root cubes in chicken stock, butter and heavy cream, and add lots of salt and black pepper. It has a clean, celery-like flavor and gives you an elegant, creamy side without the heaviness of potatoes.

Sausage-stuffed mushrooms (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – I’ve never made these but they get rave reviews online. The mushroom caps bathe in marsala wine and olive oil while you put together the sausage stuffing, which is made creamy by mascarpone and a little bit of parmesan. I thought it was a nice way to get stuffing on the table.

Cranberry sauce – I haven’t decided whether to use Tyler Florence’s or Michael Ruhlman’s. Tyler keeps it simple with orange and cinnamon. Ruhlman uses booze. It will be a gametime decision. In case the name sounds familiar, Ruhlman is Anthony Bourdain’s Midwestern buddy and sometimes makes an appearance on the show, especially when Tony is in Ohio. Ruhlman is the guy who took Tony to strip mall sushi joint Kihachi, one of Columbus’s gems.

Brussels sprouts with bacon (courtesy of my mom) – Here’s mom’s recipe:

Take 2 pounds of Brussels sprouts and boil them in a big pot until they’re bright green and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain, let cool a bit, then slice into halves or thirds if they’re small. Meanwhile, chop or scissor 8 to 12 slices of bacon and saute it up. When some of the fat has been rendered, throw in a chopped onion. Sometimes I use shallots. When that’s all soft and so good-smelling that people come to the kitchen from other parts of the house to see what smells so good, throw your sliced sprouts into the pot with the onions and bacon and give everybody a good toss. Salt and pepper to taste then dump the whole mess into a buttered casserole dish. Pour half (or more) of a cup of heavy cream all over the veggies. I know! Then top with a 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs — I like to push some of the breadcrumbs down into the mix with a rubber spatula. Now hold on to your pantaloons: slice 4 to 6 quarter-inch thick squares of cold butter and lay them over top. I know, I know! You could probably skip that step but really, with all that bacon, who cares at this point? Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Pecan squares (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – Holy Mary mother of God these are good. It’s a sheet pan layer of buttery shortbread – you bake that first — blanketed with a sticky, gooey pecan mixture made with honey, citrus zest and 2 pounds of pecans. It takes two to pour the sticky pecans over the shortbread layer — you need one person to scrape the pot. Then you bake the whole thing again. The pecans around the edges get nice and toasty. I like it better than pecan pie – no weird figgy filler. A single square feels like it might weigh a full pound. So decadent. And an acceptable breakfast in my book.  These are a Thanksgiving tradition two years’ running. The secret is in the citrus. One year, I forgot the orange zest until they were in the oven. I stood in the hot oven door and zested an orange over top. It’s that important.

What are you making for Thanksgiving?

Lodge moccasins

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Because it was a nasty, wet, blustery day, I dressed this morning in the J. Crew herringbone cargo pants that I bought months ago, before I swore off shopping. They were so tight, I knew I’ve had a stomachache by lunchtime. I’m chalking it up to inconsistent sizing, and the fact that they’re “skinny” cargos.

Tonight after work, I ran to the mall to get new snow pants for Greta because she looks like Ed Grimley in the bubble-gum pink ones she’s had for a few years. I also popped into J. Crew to trade my tighty-woolly pants for the next size up.

The big wooden table in the middle of J. Crew is piled with cashmere everything, vintage-y jewelry trays, trendy iPhone cases, fancy milk bar soaps, checked flannel PJ pants and baskets of these cute slippers. Can I tell you how soft the fur is? It is SO soft. I’m pretty sure they’re made from kittens, and they’re only $49.50.

I would pad around the house in these but good. I would have my morning coffee and take out the trash in these. I would make Thanksgiving dinner in these. They say to the world, “I like to sail on Lake Erie and do the Sunday crossword.” They say “I am all about practicality but a little luxury never hurts.” They are so grandma Betty.

Happy birthday to my beautiful mom

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Things I inherited from my mom:

Love of cooking
Love of reading cookbooks like they’re novels
Love of tomatoes
Love of spooky movies
Love of old black-and-white movies
Love of Hitchcock movies
Belief that hot tea can cure a lot
Inability to drink cough syrup without gagging
Tenacity
Low resistance to ’80s dramas like Dallas, Falcon Crest and Knot’s Landing
White blonde hair that, when you’re all grown up, needs professional help
Freckles that come out in the sun
Love of women’s magazines
Desire to change the configuration of large furniture every three months
Love for reading in bed at night
Being a sucker for awards shows
Inability to watch script Ohio without getting choked up
A poochy tummy
Unabashed devotion to potato chips and dip
Kindness
Compassion for strangers
Optimism
Love of TOAST – and belief that a layer of butter before the peanut butter is perfectly OK

For that and a whole lot more, thanks mom. Hope you had a sweet 67th.

Homemade buttermilk ranch dressing with Bibb lettuce

Barefoot Contessa's buttermilk ranch dressing -- so much better than store-bought.

Barefoot Contessa’s buttermilk ranch dressing — so much better than store-bought.

I’ve been paging through Barefoot Contessa’s cookbook, How Easy Is That?, which I borrowed from my mom, as if it were the fall issue of Vogue magazine. Everything just looks so good. I’ve already made the celery root puree, to go along with braised short ribs – a nice change from mashed potatoes.

One pretty picture I keep eyeing: her green-flecked buttermilk ranch dressing, which Barefoot serves on a wedge of Bibb lettuce, a thick, red slice of tomato and a thick slice of red onion.

So I made it this morning. It’s good! Click here for the recipe.

The dressing is very pale green thanks to half a cup of fresh basil leaves and three green onions. And with half a cup of buttermilk, Greek yogurt, and lemon juice, it’s a tangy, thin ranch. Use less buttermilk if you like a thicker dressing. It’s also a tad salty so maybe lighten up there.

For lunch, I poured it on a salad of Bibb lettuce, avocado scoops, sliced Campari tomatoes and two warm, sliced hard-boiled eggs I’d just made.

I like to store homemade dressing in Mason jars.

A tip on hard-boiled eggs: take them out of the covered pot at the 14-minute mark and submerse them in bowl of cold water and ice cubes. No tell-tale green ring around the yolk!

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What all the girls in Von Maur’s beauty department wear

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I went into Von Maur tonight to get some foundation — an essential toiletry and therefore exempt from my no-shopping pledge.

I was thinking either Lancôme or Estée Lauder. Since Estée Lauder was having Gift with Purchase, their counter won out. Plus I had a fabulous sales woman helping me, Denise.

Denise immediately went to Double Wear foundation by Estée Lauder, and said it’s what everyone there wears. The fragrance lady concurred. Denise guessed “Ivory Beige” for me. It’s oil-free, long-lasting (14 hours) and not drying.

The bag that comes with the gift is pretty snazzy: a pretty navy-blue and green pattern. Inside, you get a sample of Advanced Night Repair Eye; Daywear moisturizer; Perfectly Clean cleanser; Rock Candy shimmer gloss; Tiramisu shimmer lipstick; and a tube of mascara.

The Perfectly Clean cleanser stung my eyes in the shower because I was screwing around trying to get my Clarisonic face brush; I’m used to the super-gentle CeraVe. But this creamy cleanser had a nice rose scent that made up for the short-lived sting.

The Estée Lauder gift goes through November 17!