Mixing, mixing, mixing

My Christmas shopping budget this year was exactly $0 (you could also say it’s -$28,000 and counting, thank you grad school), so I had to be even more thoughtful (aka homemade) with my gifts than usual. Every year, my dad and stepmom, who run a folk music coffeehouse, host a Pickin’ and Eatin’ New Year’s Day Party. All of their music friends come over, and everyone eats and jams until the wee hours. With this in mind, I presented them with a certificate for my cooking/cleaning services today in preparation for their big party tomorrow.

As soon as I arrived, I turned into a walking food processor.

I made another batch of Rae Ann’s yummy holiday cream cheese spread, the one that tastes like carrot cake frosting. We opted to use regular cream cheese this time, though — wouldn’t want to overwhelm the party-goers with too much health.

Pre-mix, with cream cheese, craisins, orange juice concentrate, orange zest, pecans, cinnamon:

cream cheese, craisins, orange juice concentrate, orange zest, pecans, cinnamon

Post-mix, I had to taste test some on a cracker of course:


The spread is now in the fridge, chilling into its final ball shape form.

Next, Rae Ann found a can of chickpeas in a cupboard, so I offered to make hummus. Because the house was not stocked with any traditional hummus ingredients, we improvised and added part-skim ricotta, a tomato-bacon cream cheese flavor packet, sauteed asparagus, and other spices. The end result is DELICIOUS (I had to eat a lot of it throughout the whole process to make sure the taste was just right):


During the cupboard search for hummus ingredients, I also came upon some Belgian dark chocolate-covered poppycock, a piece of which spontaneously jumped into my mouth:


Finally, I needed to find a use for the remaining 2.5 cups of ricotta since the package was open and had no future commitments. I searched for some pumpkin to no avail, but Rae Ann offered me an even better alternative: sweet potatoes! Can you guess what it is going to be?


(P.S. I ate all the leftover potato skins since I knew they would not suit what I had in mind.)

Recipes and finished products will come soon!

Winter again

Look at what is happening outside right now!


There are 6-8 inches forecasted today here in MA. I wonder if the same thing is going on in NY?

Dad picked me up this morning at 8:30 for another trip to the gym. I did a quick 20 minutes on the treadmill, a round of arms, some stretching/abs, and 10 minutes on Kath’s “squirrelliptical.” (I never noticed it before, but that machine does actually resemble a squirrel!)

Usually, I prefer to run outside, but not when it looks like the picture above! So I settled for the heated car ride to the Y and the treadmill. The treadmill is BORING. I try to break up the monotony by pressing lots of buttons. Pressing buttons is the most exciting thing that can happen to you when you’re on a treadmill (unless you fall off of it or get your towel stuck in the band and break the machine, both of which I’ve done). Since I hate messing around with the incline (and I mostly hate running uphill), I busy myself with the speed. I say things to myself like, “One more minute, and you get to go 1/10 of a mile per hour faster!” (It doesn’t take much to get me excited, clearly.) It seems small and silly, but it works. I spent the first 10 minutes increasing from 6.5 mph to 7.0 mph, the next five minutes at 7.0 mph, the last four minutes increasing from 7.0 mph to 7.4, and the last minute increasing another 1/10 every 10 seconds. I finished off with a cool-down brisk walk for a few minutes.

Given the frightful weather outside, I decided that summer food had no place on today’s menu. I set to work whipping up some Apple-Cranberry Eggnog Milletmeal! Have you ever heard of such a thing?

I started with six more little squares of leftover Hannukah party apple-cranberry pie and added a cup of light eggnog (this was to serve 3). All on the stove in a saucepan:


Getting mashed up:


It tasted delicious … but between the natural sweetness from the apples and the sugar from the eggnog, it was a little too sweet. I added about 3/4 cup of fat free plain yogurt to bring it down:


Sidenote: I do a lot of work with yogurt (which you’ll probably get a glimpse of sometime over the next week), and something to remember when heating it is that high temperatures can kill off all the live, active cultures that make yogurt so beneficial. I turned the burner off before adding the yogurt and hoped that the “milletmeal” was no hotter than 110 degrees so that the good bacteria could stick around.

My breakfast spread (with more Nutcracker Sweet tea):


And a close-up, with nutmeg liberally sprinkled on top:


I know it looks slimy, but I’m telling you that the amazing flavors made up for it!

I’m about to head to my dad’s house for the rest of the day and night (more on that later). I started to worry about all the food here at mom’s that might get forgotten and lost in the fridge without my direction (yes, a little crazy), so I’m leaving her this note to remind her what needs to get eaten while I am gone:


I’m still nervous, but I think mom will be able to manage without me :-).

A taste of summer

When 5:30 pm came around and the key dinner ingredient still had not arrived from the grocery store, I broke into the pile of freshly baked muffins to tide me over.

warm mini muffin with a dab of melty almond butter, mmmm

warm mini muffin with a dab of melty almond butter, mmmm

At around 7pm, stepdad made his triumphant arrival with three of these beauties:



I felt a little bit guilty watching their quivering antennae poking out of the boiling water — as soon as this picture was done, I ducked my head and closed my eyes and sort of dove under the table so I wouldn’t have to watch — but clearly not guilty enough. My plate (with appropriate tools in the background):


Did you know that lobster is not very photogenic? I suppose you do now. I just could not figure out how to get a good, eye-free photo. So I focused on the veggies instead. Cauliflower and kale, first steamed and then sauteed with garlic and olive oil:


vegetables make everything look better 🙂

For dessert, we each had another square of the leftover apple-cranberry pie with a couple spoonfuls of a part-skim ricotta/nonfat plain yogurt/cinnamon mixture and three plump and juicy cherries!


Have you ever seen anything more perfect??

Good night!

The oven needs a break

Between my cooking, my mom’s cooking, and the mountain of leftovers, I don’t think the oven has been off for more than 10 minutes all day! At one point, I went into the freezer to retrieve some frozen turkey carcasses for mom’s turkey soup, and I happened upon these little treats:


When I was visiting over the summer, I found a bottle of lavender syrup left over from a family trip to Canada when I was about 16 (over 10 years ago!). Thinking the syrup might be stale, I simmered it a bit and then spooned quarter-sized drops onto wax paper to make little lavender candies. Apparently, they’ve been sitting in the freezer for the past six months, layered in their wax paper. I snacked on three today, and they taste as good as new!

While waiting for lunch to cook, I also snacked on quite a bit of the batter and ingredients for these muffins while mom was hard at work on them.

For lunch, I scanned the fridge for anything nearing the end of its lifespan, as usual. I came up with these:

wrinkly peppers, eggplant, carrots

wrinkly peppers, eggplant, carrots

Which became this:


Roasted at 450 for 40 minutes with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper:


Steaming, on top of lettuce (the very very last of it!), and sprinkled with feta and toasted walnuts:


With three more “latkes” on the side:


PHEW! The oven and I are going to take a little rest now. Check back later for a very exciting dinner!!

Not gone yet!

For breakfast this morning, the leftover pineapple-ricotta-pie-turned-pumpkin-pie-pudding made yet another appearance! Mom and I decided that it might work well in oatmeal pancake form, so I added 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup fat free cottage cheese, the rest of the candied ginger, a bit of baking powder, and an egg white. Lest you worry that the yolk went to waste, I fed it to the cats (my mom has 5!) for their breakfast dessert: 


I used two cookie sheets with canola-sprayed foil and baked the pancakes at 400 for 30ish minutes. Here they are just out of the oven:


Set up on our plates with half an orange each and a ramekin of eggnog sauce (plain yogurt + splash of light eggnog + sprinkle of nutmeg) for topping:


My plate, sauced:


It was just too pretty, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures:


This food photography is addictive! There were about 6 pancakes left, so I bagged them (eating lots of “crumbs” along the way) and put them in the freezer to take back to Brooklyn with me this weekend. Expect to see these guys again sometime soon!