Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's my birthday (cough, sputter, hack, wheeze)

It is official.  I have pneumonia.  I haven't gotten out of bed for four days.  And it is my birthday.  Bwaaaaaah!  Feeling very sorry for myself, of course, and can't eat anything, as am totally nauseous.  But to every dark cloud there is a silver lining!  Not only am I losing the pounds that I meant to lose before my birthday, the fine people at Penguin/ Plume sent me an advance copy of the paperback of my book.  On sale January 4th!  Just in time to return all that stuff you didn't want for Christmas, and get the gift you really want - my book!

My book will fill you with the love that your friends and family are too selfish to provide.  My book will nurture you with delicious, creamy, salty, and sweet treats, as well as decadent pastas and super-crispy fried chicken.  My book will sustain you with the easiest ever recipe for Mom's Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup for Closet Cases!  In fact, I am going to ask my husband to make some for me right now - wait!  I don't mean... You know... Just the recipe is real easy and delicious.  He's not a closet case.  Totally not.  Okay, stopping now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Day After Thanksgiving

Oh my god it's time to make the gingerbread house again.  Too soon.  It is too soon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things For Which I Am Thankful

Dear Reader,

I am thankful for a lot of things.  A lot.  Like my children and my husband, and my family and my friends. But also I am thankful for cocktails.  If you are still trying to figure out what to serve with your turkey, here is a delicious concoction that will go perfectly with not only said fowl, but all those side dishes as well.  I heard about the Stone Fence on the Rachel Maddow show after she was served one at a White House cocktail party.  It turns out that this was the favorite drink of Thomas Jefferson, so what could be more perfect on this most American of days?  Cheers.

Stone Fence

Apple Jack, Brandy, or Bourbon
Apple Cider
Dash Bitters
Sprig of mint

Add each to a glass in proportions according to your taste for booze.  Plop in a couple of ice cubes.  Drink.

I must also give a shout out of thanks to the University of Kansas Hospital and the Richard and Annette Block Cancer Care Pavilion for taking such great care of my mother.  Much appreciation sent to Kansas.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Extremely Serious, No Joke Spiced Sweet Potato Casserole

Dear Reader,

November has been a hard month for my family.  First, the girl came down with a fever, which turned into a cough.  The doctor put her on antibiotics, and meanwhile, the husband came down with the same cough. The daughter's cough did not go away, which sent us back to the doctor, who diagnosed her with pneumonia.  Walking pneumonia, which is only slightly less dire that what these people have.  So more antibiotics, two inhalers, and the husband is still coughing because his doctor said he "just has a cough."  Just as the girl begins to improve, the boy starts coughing.  So for about a week everyone in the house is coughing, hard, loud, barking coughs pretty much 24 hours a day.  And the mom is both tired and frazzled, but not coughing, so that is good, because somebody has to take care of everyone, as we don't yet have a private nurse.

Then, two nights ago, I was at a reading of Wallace Shawn's work, and my neck started hurting.  I thought that it was perhaps due to the fact that I had been basically staring in one direction for two hours, but that doesn't make sense, does it?  By the time I got home, I was sick, sick, sick.  Apologies to the people sitting on either side of me at the reading.

Last night I put myself to bed just after the children, at eight o'clock, with not so much as a glass of wine, which is highly unusual for me.  Truthfully, I expected to have a nice cocktail of Nyquil, but someone threw it out thinking it was perhaps expired.  Unfortunately, eight o'clock was the precise time my downstairs neighbor decided would be perfect to bang out some Billy Joel on her piano.  It didn't last long, though and I slept ten hours straight, beset by dreams featuring mimes, John Cusak, Jaden Smith, Mick Jagger and Joe Biden.  Today I am still sick, but a bit better, and still making sweet potatoes.  Today I give you the recipe I will actually use for my family's Thanksgiving dinner, as having tried so very many, I know with certainty this one is the best.  It comes from a magazine, not sure which, as I tore out the page years ago, and it stays folded up inside my Martha Stewart Cookbook all year.  It might have been Cooking Light, or maybe Vegetarian Times, as it gives the full rundown of nutritional information.

Extremely Serious, No Joke Spiced Sweet Potato Casserole

You will need:

3 lbs sweet potatoes
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. orange juice concentrate
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Cook the sweet potatoes either in the microwave or oven depending on the time you want to invest in this project.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Scoop the potato into a large bowl, add sugar, butter, OJ concentrate, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.  Beat with a mixer at low speed.  Add eggs and beat until smooth.  Spoon into a baking dish - I will use a deep dish pie pan, and sprinkle with pagans, no not pagans, pecans, sprinkle with pecans.  Bake 45 minutes.  Can be made a day in advance, obviously, as I am making this right now and it is only Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sweet Potatoes for Unwanted Vegans

Dear Reader,

Every family has at least one.  They're at every Thanksgiving.  Vegans.  You can't make mashed potatoes, in my opinion, without butter and cream.  Likewise a proper stuffing is comprised mostly of butter and a little bit of sausage.  So what is left over for the vegans?  Cranberry sauce?  But what to put it on?  Here are some sweet potatoes that will satisfy even the most sanctimonious, patchouli-laden guest at your table.

Sweet Potatoes for Unwanted Vegans

You will need:
Sweet Potatoes

Mash the sweet potatoes into a bowl resisting urge to smoke peels.  Squeeze on a little orange juice and mix in a dash of ground cardamom.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wash feet before sitting at table as that cheesy smell might go well with nutritional yeast dusted kale chips, but really ruins a freshly killed and roasted turkey.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sweet Potatoes for Junkies

Dear Reader,

Every member of my family likes their sweet potatoes a different way, and I am sure your family is the same.  To satisfy all these many palates, I plan on offering you recipes for everyone at your table.  Today's version comes from my sister, who is NOT a junkie of the narcotic sort, but most definitely one of sugar.  No fear if the junkies in your family are more hard core, they will probably like this, too.  Enjoy!

Sweet Potatoes for Junkies

You will need:

Chewy Sweet Tarts
2 cans yams
1/2 box brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 bag marshmallows

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place Chewy Sweet Tarts in microwave for 10 seconds to "loosen them up." Eat.  Open cans of yams.  Plop into a bowl and mash with a fork.  Melt butter in microwave and pour into potatoes.  Dump in half box brown sugar and stir, being careful to leave large chunks of brown sugar as special prizes inside mash.  Pour into large baking dish and spread.  Top with marshmallows - not mini-marshmallows, but the kind you can only fit three in your mouth at once, so that the ratio of marshmallow to sweet potato is roughly 2:1.  Bake until golden brown on top.  Brush teeth and make dental appointment.  If uninsured, have needle nosed pliers and bottle of whiskey on hand.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sophisticated Cranberry Sauce For When You Are Intimidated By Your Guests

Dear Reader,

Thanksgiving can be fraught will all manner of insecurities, particularly if you are entertaining guests who scare the shit out of you.  Maybe you married for money and your new wealthy relatives are coming over, or your new boyfriend has much cooler friends than you are accustomed to, or you somehow managed to find a boyfriend or girlfriend at all, after many years of Hungry Man Turkey Dinners for one.  Whatever the case, you can NOT serve a gloppy can of cranberry sauce to these people.  I can help.

Sophisticated Cranberry Sauce For When You Are Intimidated By Your Guests

You will need:
Balsamic vinegar
Dried cherries
Dried cranberries
Ella Fitzgerald CD
Artisanal Small Batch Wine

With the turkey in the oven, pour a quantity of vinegar into a sauce pan.  Add two cloves of whole, peeled garlic.  Put on Ella Fizgerald CD, as though some people might not love Ella Fitzgerald, nobody can argue that she is not worth listening to, and the choice of this sort of music says that you are familiar with music outside of the Nickleback and Rascal Flatts which take up most of the space on your iPod, and that you can appreciate arty things.  Toss in a handful of dried cherries and dried cranberries to the vinegar, and simmer.  Pour glass of small batch wine.  Purchasing this sort of wine eliminates the odds that you will buy a wine that is considered gauche or declasse, and if your guests have never heard of it, chances are they won't know it cost only $9.99.  Reduce the vinegar being careful not to stick your face directly over the saucepan as the fumes from the simmering vinegar will cause your throat to close up and your eyes to water.  Remove garlic.  When serving guests, the sauce may be smeared artistically beneath the turkey, dotted around the edge of the plate, or drizzled over the turkey, the choice is yours.  Just make sure you have a can of cranberry sauce on hand, because everybody likes that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sweet Potatoes for Homespun Minimalists

Dear Reader,
The fine people at CSN Stores once again asked me to review some of the products they have on offer.  I don't know if you know this, but CSNStores.com sells just about everything.  So with all that to choose from, I picked something I have wanted - NEEDED - for a long time.  But that has not arrived yet, so you will have to wait to hear about it.

I had a little money left over and settled upon a potato ricer, it being close to Thanksgiving, and just about the only time of year I would have need for such an item.  I chose the ricer made by OXO, because I am a fan of their ergonometric designs - not great to look at, but easy and comfortable to use, which is what you want in a device that is meant to squash an entire potato.  

My children, being born of another planet, do not like mashed potatoes, so I picked up some sweet potatoes.  I stuck them in the microwave (who has time for baking potatoes?) till they were soft, removed the peel, and stuck them in the bowl of the ricer, which was not quite large enough for one of the giant sweet potatoes, but most likely the right size for a Yukon Gold.  One squeeze and I had a perfect, lovely, velvety bowl of mash.  Just right for today's recipe.

Sweet Potatoes for Homespun Minimalists

You will need:

Sweet Potatoes
Maple Syrup
Nothing else.  Nothing.

Prick potatoes all over with a fork and bake in a 475 degree oven for an hour or until they are soft.  You could do this in a microwave, if you didn't think they took up too much space on your counter.  Mash potatoes, add butter, salt, pepper and a dash of maple syrup to remind you of Mom and knickknacks.  Enjoy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

So wrong, but so right!

Dear Reader,

Occasionally I come across something that makes me slap my forehead and shout, "Why didn't I think of that?"  The personal computer is one of these things, as are the internet and the Home Shopping Network.  Now I have a new item to add to the list.  I give you the Turkey Cake.

The folks at Chow.com have come up with this really disturbing, but probably totally delicious, Thanksgiving invention.  Two layers of ground turkey, layered with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and "iced" with more mashed potatoes, and then sweet potatoes topped with mini-marshmallows browned gently in the oven.  Absolute heaven.

Veteran's Day Recap

Dear Reader,

I wrote yesterday about my father, which was fitting, as he is a veteran, and it was Veteran's Day, and also because he was giving a speech at the opening ceremony for the NYC Veteran's Day parade, AND doing the commentary for the parade on NBC.  Big day!  Here's what went down.

Dad sharing some sly talk with Mayor Bloomberg.  Perhaps about the lovely princess in the front? She was actually Miss Haiti.  Is it comforting to know that with all Haiti's problems, they still made time to choose a beauty queen?

Governor Paterson always looks like he is pooping.

My father giving a rousing speech about welcoming home the new vets from Iraq and Afghanistan.  These kids are coming home to a bleak job market.  Sucks man!

Civil War Veteran speaks about his experience during the Battle of Appomattox.  Gruesome.

As a karate expert, I can't say too much about this picture because the rent is too damn high.  Jimmy McMillan seems to be listening for the sounds of a hungry baby.

Getting ready to zoom up 5th Ave on the back of a golf cart.  Definitely a highlight of the day for some of us, and absolutely terrifying for others.

That's my dad, on the left, sitting next to Chuck Scarborough.

My eight year old son: "Oh man! They are totally going to ruin that carpet."

Dudes on horses did not get nearly as much applause as...

the dudes cleaning up after them.

What happens when you let the six year old take the photos.


He wasn't even mad when I spilled the Jelly Beans all over the bleachers.

Float representing some...companies...?

Second marine from the right is totally not paying attention. No chit chat on the parade route, son!

So typical... hiding behind the flag.

If you say the word "flag" ten times, really fast, it sounds like a word that might mean something else.  Like a "flag" would be a fat, lazy person, as in, "Where's my coffee?  This barista's such a flag."

Me and the girl on NBC.  I could tell you that the boy didn't mind that he wasn't on TV, but I would be lying.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day Pancakes for Dad

Dear Reader,

It is Veteran's Day here in America, a time when we say a big THANK YOU to all our service men and women.  As the proud daughter of a former Army Captain in the 101st Airborne (HOLLA) I offer you my father's apple pancakes.  Thanks, Dad.

Dad's Army Ranger Pancakes

You will need:
(I always use Nigella Lawson's recipe, but Dad uses Aunt Jemima's, and I have to admit, they are better)
Maple Syrup
More Butter

Peel, core (is it really necessary to tell you to core them?  Would you ever leave the core in?) and chop apples and add a generous pat, more like a slab, of butter to a small saucepan.  Throw in the apples.  Cover them with a whole bunch of glugs of syrup, a pinch of cinnamon, and let them simmer.  Meanwhile, make the batter.  Add to the batter a dose of syrup.  Place another slab of butter into a hot pan.  Pour on the batter, adding the cooked apples.  When the pancake is ready to be flipped (when small bubbles are forming in the top) flip it over.  If you are quite deft, you can throw in more butter while the pancake is being flipped.  With the cooked side up, use your spatula to press down on the pancake, this will crisp up the edges and make them slightly caramelized.  Turn onto plate and top with more syrup.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

They're back, again? So soon?

Dear Reader,

You may recall the unexplained object hovering over my street a few weeks back.  Well it seems that someone may be trying to reach back.  So tell, me, are you a believer?  I'm packing my suitcase as I write this.  Not literally, that would be really difficult and awkward.  Besides, what to pack?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eat Your Feelings Sandra Lee!

Dear Reader,

Some of you are thrilled with last night's election results, probably outside right now hiding in the bushes with your shotgun on the lookout for Muslims and "lazy black people" that are out to take your stuff.  Others are packing up your old college text books and back issues of the New Yorker and telling everyone you are heading for Canada (you'll never go, and anyway, they don't want you).  But whatever your politics, there is one thing you are undoubtedly excited for - Sandra Lee is the First Lady of New York State!  I am giddy with anticipation of the tablescapes she will be able to create in the Governor's Mansion!  Think of the myriad glasses in every shape, and size, and color in which she will concoct delicious ice-creamy cocktails.  Albany has no idea what is in store!  For Sandra Lee, Andrew Cuomo, and the residents of the capital district, I offer First Lady Martini, New York Style.  Cheers!

First Lady Martini, New York Style

You will need:
Vanilla Pudding
Blue Curacao
Graham Cracker crumbs

Lick the rim of your martini glass, the big one with the twisty, braided stem, but not the green one, and dip it gently in the graham crackers - crushed like the nuts of Carl Palladino.  Layer the bottom of the glass with vanilla pudding.  Pour on one dram of grenadine, and then float blue curacao on top.  Finish with a delightful Maple leaf collected from the lawn, and wonder what the heck Andrew is going to do, because the RENT IS STILL TOO DAMN HIGH.