24 November 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving: the food


Screw the boring, gamey turkey and make a Beer Braised Pork Shoulder or roast a chicken.  I'm curious to try this Cola Ham with Maple & Mustard Glaze, myself. Or, if you must, at least have the sense to fry your turkey.

Vegetarian entrees...

Don't be an asshole and make the vegetarians subsist on green beans and mashed potatoes. Stuffed squash, Mushroom and Potato Pie, and Spaghetti Squash Smothered in Indian-flavored Vegetables have all been chronicled here before, and they still work.


Braised Radishes with Orange are ridiculously good, and your green beans will definitely be more delicious when spiked with wasabi. Please promise me you will make your own cranberry sauce from scratch (boil together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup orange juice, a cinnamon stick, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and one 12-ounce bag cranberries). And please, for the love of Buddha, roast your white and sweet potatoes together with some nice herbs.  No marshmallows!


Pumpkin Pie is better with coconut milk, and cranberries are delicious in a cornmeal shortbread. But I'm not opposed to a little Apple-Rhubarb Crumble, either...

20 November 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving: hosting guests

It's the weekend before Thanksgiving, and it's also Friday; either way, I hope you're prepping your bar and whipping up some snacks for guests!

Cocktail Hour...

As soon as people arrive, you should have some options for them to drink and snack.  Because maybe they're super excited to get the party started, or maybe they need the booze to survive a conversation with you and the snacks to fill the awkward pauses.  Either way, it's only polite to have some simple offerings on hand.

Drinks: keep it simple.  If it takes you 20 minutes to make the drinks, you're not really enjoying the visit, are you?

Cold weather drinks with rye, rum, and bourbon

Lighter cocktails: mimosa, sangria, and the classic Bloody Mary

Thanksgiving cocktails: cranberry margarita and rosemary gin and tonic


A nice wine and cheese arrangement does the trick, too.

Snacks: you need something to sop up the booze.  Bowls of nuts, mixed olives, and some bread will do.  I, however, am very partial to dips.

Chipotle-Crab Dip
Guacamole (trust me, this one's good)
Hot Rosemary-Garlic Ricotta Dip
Hummus (don't buy it, dingbat!)
Roasted Red Pepper Dip (aka North African Party Dip)
Tuscan White Bean Dip
Walnut-Feta Spread

This is a little more work, but aren't deviled eggs delicious, too?  You never make them just for yourself, right? But having guests over is a great excuse!

If you've got house guests, it's your job to make the morning.  Get up earlier than them and have something delicious for them to eat (or not--don't be pushy).  It doesn't matter if you don't want to get up, just do it!  There is nothing ruder than a host who leaves the guests to roam the halls in silence, snooping around for a mug and a coffee maker like a sleepy thief.  Don't make your guests feel like vultures.

Everything with a  *  can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated until ready to serve.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake *
Breakfast Quinoa
Breakfast Rice Pudding
Chocolate Muffins *
Lemon-Tahini Muffins *
Rye & Rhubarb (or raspberry) Cake *

Breakfast Burritos *
Crustless Quinoa and Greens Quiche *
Heavenly Egg Casserole *
Mini Quiches *
Sweet Potato Hash

17 November 2015

Countdown to Thanksgiving: leaving town

Bitch, please.  Those are the crappy biscuits you dropped on the ground. 

I love Thanksgiving.  It's based on food with no requisite gift-giving tradition, it takes place in the fall (the best time of year), and it's not religious. It is based on a myth that our European ancestors were respectful to the indigenous population, but I think that's a lie we can all get behind here in America. So, let the celebration begin!

Maybe you will host a fatty Thanksgiving party at your abode, which is what the rest of these posts will detail. But if you're planning on traveling for the holiday like me, you're probably starting to slowly gather items, apps, and the like to make the car or plane ride comfortable.

If by air...

Did you know that you can download hundreds of free magazines and newspapers to read on your phone or tablet once you get to the airport?  Download the free Inflight Reader app and you'll have tons of reading to help ignore that annoying kid who keeps turning around and staring at you from his seat.

Did you also know that when you're in the airport, you can "?.jpg" to the end of any url to bypass having to pay for WiFi?

I love this infographic, "Should I Pack It?" Of course, if I'm flying to my parents' house, I pack absolutely nothing beyond underwear and a toothbrush.  I will wear my Mom's oversized sweaters and puffy floor-length winter coat all week, no problem.

If by land...

I know I've told you this before, and if you haven't already done it I'm going to be kind of pissed.  Download the Gas Buddy app to search for the cheapest gas wherever you are.

Keep a winter travel kit in your car if you live in a part of the country where winter happens: space blanket, sleeping bag, candles & matches, an extra coat, mittens, hat, and scarf, extra socks, emergency flares, and everything you need to jump start your battery & change a flat.

Pack snacks so you're not stuck eating Doritos at the gas station: nuts, chocolate, fruit, yogurt, plenty of water, and those Emergen'C packets make pretty tasty Kool-Aid. Make sure you've got napkins or facial tissue and some plastic silverware, too.  I don't know why, but I always need a spoon when I don't have one.

Check and see if you have these apps for your trip!

Being the best guest you can be...

Bring gifts--that's what this section is about. You are causing a great deal of work to take place on your behalf, from forcing your host to vacuum (suck) to washing all your soiled bed clothes and towels after you're gone (gross).  The least you can do is say thank you with some junk.

You can always buy something if you're flying--I totally trust the Serious Eats list on buying tasty, affordable Scotch, and Food and Wine definitely has their stuff together when it comes to recommending cheap wine you won't be embarrassed to bring to the party. Flowers are nice, and I'm not much of a smelly candle person, but I always love a good (small, inexpensive) little kitchen gadget. Or revisit my "Gifts fit for a food lover" post from last year.

If you're close enough that you can make something to bring over, consider infusing your own vodka, creating your own tea blend (a decent loose black tea pairs well with lavender, vanilla bean, and any number of dried fruits, for instance), a mulled wine packet (dried orange slices, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, star anise), or homemade herbal vinegar (gently heat white wine vinegar for about 5 minutes with the herb or fruit peel of your choice, strain, and pour into an airtight container).  Any kind of baked good is also fair game, of course.

Happy travels, and don't be a jerk!

13 November 2015

Duluth in two days

I was touring Minnesota last week (yes, it was cold), and I visited several towns.  Yes, Minneapolis is a cool city, and I've already talked about what I like in the Fargo/Moorhead area, but today I want to tell you about an oft-overlooked little city called Duluth.  I think this place will probably suck in the winter, because the fog and icy wind coming off Lake Superior was already getting a little old after two days, but it's a lovely lakeside town with a charming downtown area and a friendly population. If you go,...

7 West Taphouse

We went here for lunch, and then came back for the huge beer list at night! Fried cheese curds, onion rings, creative burgers, and lots of local brews make this really worth visiting.

Lake Superior Bakehouse

This place was our savior on a cold, gray morning before teaching at 9am (and after post-concert drinks at 7 West). Great breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, coffee, and tea.

Tweed Museum, UMD  

Bent Paddle taproom
Right across the hall from where I was teaching flute class and performing a recital, there was a great little museum with modern pieces and classical European art, all presented in an educational, interactive setting.  What an inspiring setting in which to learn!


I was not in town long enough to enjoy some of Duluth's delicious local beer in their original homes, but there are a ton of breweries in the area: Bent Paddle (which is on tap all over the city, and it is delicious), Fitgers, Black List, Canal Park, and Lake Superior are all in Duluth, and surrounding towns have a few to contribute, as well.  Beer is so appropriately loved here that there is a "Beer Trail" that serves as a directory to them all.