Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving FEAST (Year 4, Year 2 on the Blog)

Thanksgiving 2010
Where did I leave off about Thanksgiving?  Oh yes, I teased you and told you about my menu.  And told you that I had some great successes as well as some failures.  Hey, I'm not perfect and even Iron Chefs have bad days.  So what happened? 

Well, I was smooth sailing on Wednesday.  I got my Cheesecake in the oven and I sat down to read blogs on my computer.  Then the house got all smokey and the fire alarm went off.  Basically I should have put my cake pan on a baking sheet.  Instead some type of liquid leaked to the bottom of my oven and smoke filled the house.  I took the cheesecake out, turned off the oven, googled "homemade oven cleaners" and tried to clean the inside of the oven so I could cook the cheesecake. This is as clean as we got it:
 While we were cleaning the oven, I decided to try to fit the cheesecake in the toaster/convention oven to cook for the remaining 20 minutes.  I thought this was a good idea at the time...
Anyway, pretty quickly, little burnt marks formed on the top of the cake so I took it out and was able to cook it for the rest of the time in the oven.  One problem solved.

Thursday morning I slept in.  We woke up and Dave took the turkey out of the brine, smothered it in herb butter and oil and covered it with foil then put it in the oven.

Pretty quickly the oven started smoking again and the fire alarm went off.  We got a call from the local fire department and I informed them this would probably happen a few more times today.  Seriously, the last time the fire department called, they asked "Is it the oven again?"
We left the doors in our house open and Natalia and I continued cooking. I put on my favorite apron (sugar plum- my favorite name) and got rocking.
We baked my sugar pumpkins, finished my risotto, cooked the potatoes, roasted the brussel sprouts. Cooked the mini baked bries, reheated the cranberry meatballs.
**If you are interested in any of the recipes, I am linking a page with all the recipes at the bottom**

Goat Cheese and Marscapone Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto

Mini Baked Bries with Fig Jam
Mini Cranberry Meatballs

Side Dishes
Next, time to finish the sides. We took the pancetta, I had cooked the day before and added it back in a hot skillet to brown a little more.  Then we took half of it out for our salad.  On a different skillet, we roasted the pecans.  Then added the roasted brussels to the pancetta and most of the pancetta fat.  At the last second we added dried cranberries and salt and pepper.
Check out this beauty:
Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Pecans and Cranberries

Next up, the Cranberry Sauce:
Made with 2 packages of Fresh Ocean Spray Cranberries, 1 Cup of Sugar, 1 Cup of Water.  Once the berries pop open, we added 1 peeled and diced granny smith apple, half an oranges fresh juice, orange zest and lime zest.
Cranberry-Apple Sauce with Citrus Zest

Then, we finished the risotto and added it to the sugar pumpkins with chives on top.
Butternut Squash, Chicken Sausage and Cranberry Risotto in Pumpkin Bowls

We finished roasting the potatoes. This is 6 Medium Red Potoates, Diced into small pieces, mixed with rosemary, thyme, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper.
Oven Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic

And then we finished the stuffing.  I basically just added Pepperidge Farm Bread Cubes AND Chunks of Baguette with the ingredients I prepped on Wednesday.  Then added tons of chicken broth.
Sausage, Cranberry and Apple Stuffing
In the midst of this, Dave checked on the Turkey...

Then I finished the Butternut Squash, Kale and Cheddar Bread Pudding. I love this dish.  It's Molly Wizenbergs and I made it last year as well.  It's fabulous!
Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding
Then we took the Turkey out of the oven and let it rest...

And then cut it up (well hubby took care of that...)

The other failure in the kitchen was the gravy.  We took our pan drippings and tried to make tasty gravy.  Unfortunately, because the oven was so hot and smoky, the pan drippings were practically black and even though we tried to thicken up the sauce, we were unsuccessful.  The one good thing is no one really minded.  I guess Gravy isn't a necessity for my family. 

Then my mom plated the first dish.  1 ladle of leek soup, 1 ladle of red pepper soup. It's clearly a work of art.
First course: Leek and Red Pepper Soup!

The fam:

Then time to serve yourself!

And my beautiful, extremly full plate:
Oh and here's the leftovers... no joke. It seriously looks untouched! Let's just say everyone went home with lots of food!
And to finish the evening... desserts! Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie prepared by my Mother-in-law. Brownies and Magic Bars prepared by my mom.  And the almost disastrous cheesecake prepared by yours truly.  (See the freckles???)
I added the finishing touch to cover up the freckles: Pecan Maple Cream Sauce!
And voila!
After eating all this food, it was time to burn some calories on the Wii. I seriously haven't played in almost a year!
Good times had by all!

And here are the recipes- check it out!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ibex Outdoor Clothing

A few weeks ago I received an email from Julie, a PR Rep for Ibex Outdoor Clothing.  She emailed me about the Ibex clothing line, the new store opening on Newbury Street and the party the company is hosting.  In addition, she offered to send me a running outfit to review on the blog.  After checking out the website, I was ecstatic to test out the product.  I love winter running and I'm always looking for the perfect winter time outfit without having too many layers. (Even when it's cold out, I get hot easily and hate being too warm).
Ibex Outdoor Clothing is all about making outdoor clothing that has the right fabrics.  They really care about performance and comfort and how their products looks. They also make sustainable clothes.  Oh and, their line of clothes is made of wool.  They make premium merino wool and lifestyle apparel and I was so excited to run in the gear.

I was sent the Indie Crew shirt which is a baselayer that is pretty warm.  It doesn't look very warm but it is, actually I had to roll up my sleeves on the run.  This fabric hangs beautifully and features serious styling and attention to detail (their words, not mine, but super true!) I loved how fashionable the top is. It was super cute!

I was also sent the Energy Tight which I absolutely loved.  I loved the look of them but more importantly, they felt awesome. They are made of New Zealand Merino Wool but it also has Lycra and nylon.  And it really moved with you while you move. Because it's wool, it automatically regulates your temperature and manages moisture.  Honestly, I loved these pants.  They were so comfortable and perfect cold weather gear.  

Oh and I loved the side zipper.

I ran five miles in the gear on Friday morning.  I was desperate to run after eating my weight in food the day before.  The weather was about 37 and cloudy.  I felt strong but tired. I ran on lots of hills, and my hip flexor hurt on both sides but I finished in under 9 min pace.  (Did I mention that's my newest injury.. always has to be something with me!) Mile Splits: 8:50, 9:16, 8:57, 9:05, 8:51. The Ibex gear was really fabulous and I think it will be even better in colder weather. The pants were perfect- they stayed in place, they were comfortable and were super warm and cozy.  The shirt was really warm too and when I finished, you could barely tell I broke a sweat. I definitely recommend this gear to anyone who runs during the winter.  Boston can get really really cold.  Last year I ran in 8 degree weather and I know this gear will be perfect.

And now I have something for the locals...
If you live in the Boston area, Ibex would love for you to come out for their Winter Welcoming Party this Thursday. I'm going and I can't wait to see the new store!
WHAT: Apr├Ęs Ski Themed Party: Kick off the Winter Season with American
, Hot Toddies, and Woolies.

There will be a Raffle featuring a weekend's stay at a Vermont Resort and
$500 of Ibex gear.

WHY: House warming party to welcome our friends, new and old, to celebrate
the coming of Winter at our new home.

WHERE: 303 Newbury Street Boston, MA

WHEN: December 2, 5-9pm

Thanks Julie and Ibex for letting me try out the gear.  Cannot wait to celebrate with you on Thursday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

I am Thankful

I'm a day late on my thankful post but I'm sure you will all understand.  Yesterday was a busy day.  We hosted Thanksgiving for 8 but with all the food we made, we could have had 10 more people.  But hey, I do love my leftovers. I'll write about all the food we made later this weekend but first I wanted to tell you what I'm thankful for this holiday season.

I'm Thankful for...

...my husband Dave. He keeps me sane. But more than that, he also allows me to be myself, which is crazy and wacky.  He also is an expert turkey briner, roaster and turkey slicer.  And he really knows how to wash some dishes. In addition, he is a pretty sick xbox player. And he is finishing up his dissertation to become Dr. David in less than a month!
...my mother. My mom lives less than a mile away and I love spending time with her.  I really feel like she would do absolutely anything for me and I feel really privelaged to have such an amazing mommy. She's extremely smart, ridiculously fashionable (yes she wears skinny jeans and boots and looks AWESOME), very patient and loving.  I wouldn't be half the person I am today without her!
...my siblings. I have TWO now.  I've written about my brother enough so you get the idea that we are extremely close. Closer than any other siblings I know.  But he married Natalia who I absolutely love. Over the last four Thanksgivings, she has been my sous chef, professional taste tester and executive calmer-downer.
...having two parents who still get along and can sit next to each other at the dinner table on Thanksgiving even though they are divorced
...my new family.  My in-laws welcome me like their own and I love spending time with them.
...running.  Running is a privilege, an honor, a gift.  Not everyone can do it and the fact that my legs have carried me through over 1000 miles and two marathons this year is really special.  I feel lucky.
...mostly, I am thankful for my life. It's easy to sit back and think about all the bad things in your life and its a lot harder to think about the good.  But I think its important to concentrate on the happy things and to realize, wow, my life is pretty f#%$#%$ great. And I'm happy.  The key to being happy is ALLOWING yourself to be. My friend Debbie sent me this quote from her daily calendar.  I love everything about it.
I'm a big fan of living in the moment and enjoying the life you have now.  Sure, I'm a planner and I like to plan for the future but I'm a big believer in being happy in the life you live.  This quote says it all and more. Hope you enjoyed it!

Well, I want to tell you all about the food I made and the successes (and failures) I had in the kitchen.  It wouldn't be a big family gathering without something going wrong (hello fire-alarm).  But all in all, it was a fabulous day and Thanksgiving really makes me appreciate all the good things I have in life.

(All this I thought about on my run a little bit ago...running keeps me sane and keeps my brain moving! )

I had planned to write about Thanksgiving food and the running gear I tested out today from Ibex, but I will save that for another day.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Menu & Prep

Hi Everyone!  Happy Day Before Thanksgiving.  Most people had to work today, but since I had tons of prep work to do, I took the day off.  I'm pretty satisfied with everything I got done and I feel pretty good going into tomorrow.  This year, we are hosting only 8 people.  Worlds of difference from the 14 we had last year.  However,  I always love feeding a big crowd.  Here is the menu:

2010 Thanksgiving Menu:

Cheese Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto (Giada)
Cranberry Meatballs (Recipe Girl)
Mini Baked Bries (inspired by Cara)

Main Dish:
Brined Turkey- 19 lbs (Alton Brown)

Side Dishes:
Sausage, Cranberry and Apple Stuffing
Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Pecans and Cranberries
Cranberry-Apple Sauce with Citrus Zest
Butternut Squash, Chicken Sausage and Cranberry Risotto in Pumpkin Bowls
Oven Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic
Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding (Molly Wizenberg)
Mescalin Salad with Pancetta, Apples and Candied Pecans

Pumpkin Maple Pecan Cheesecake (Anne Thorton)

So that's what I'm making.  My mom is also making Leek and Red Pepper Soup, Green Bean Casserole and Magic Bars.  My mother-in-law is making peas and carrots, and two pies- Apple and Pumpkin.  So yeah, I think we'll have enough food for 8 people.  But I love leftovers!!!

The other day I tested out Recipe Girls Cranberry Meatballs.  My father in law is lactose intolerant so I wanted to make an appetizer without cheese.  Since I'm obsessed with Cheese, thats hard for me.  I tumbled upon this recipe and I was intrigued.  Dave and I tested out these small meatballs and really loved them.
 I cooked the rest of the meat and put the sauce in another container and put it aside for Thursday.
I also set the table.  I love getting this out of the way early.
 How cute are these place cards?
 This morning, Dave and I got to work on the turkey.  Meaning I called out Alton Brown's recipe from the computer and Dave took care of it.  The turkey has been in the cooler all day and we're about to turn it over.  This is our 3rd year brining our turkey and it gets such good flavor that way.
 Next up I got to work on my risotto while also roasting 2 butternut squashes.
I added the squash and dried cranberries to the risotto and put it away in the fridge. After the risotto was done, I browned bulk sausage with carrots, celery, leeks, fennel, dried cranberries and apples.  Then I stored that away to finish up with a baguette and stock tomorrow for our stuffing.
 Next up I cooked a package of chicken sausage for my risotto and cooked pancetta for the brussel sprouts and salad.  I also chopped up some red potatoes and added rosemary, thyme and garlic.  All of those are in the fridge as well.
 Then I worked on the Butternut Squash, Kale, Cheddar Bread Pudding.  I cooked shallots and Kale and mixed a baguette with eggs and cream. 
 I also chopped up 4 pounds of Brussel Sprouts.
I prepped my mini-baked bries.
Puff pastry, fig jam and brie.
I also put together my cheese stuffed dates and tested quite a few.  Yum!
And lastly, I made my Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake.  It's currently in the freezer and I'm excited about the outcome.  Everything I put in there looks amazing.  The cake started with a gingersnap/graham cracker crust.
 I then mixed together the cream cheeses (including one pumpkin cream cheese) with pumpkin, condensed milk and other goodies.
Hopefully everything turns out as good as I hope it will.  
I'm off to hang out with high school friends.
Happy Thanksgiving!