It’s December! Oh my god. Time is just slipping away. 2015 is the scariest number I’ve ever seen.
I hope everyone reading this (in the US anyway, or those of you outside the US that wanted to celebrate it) had a lovely Thanksgiving and avoided the pitfalls of Black Friday… I read that Black Friday sales overall were down this year.
My Thanksgiving break was interesting, to say the least. I was away for nearly a week, but I brought my computer home and I worked every day except for Thursday. Wednesday was filled with copyediting, Netflix, and making an excellent cranberry sauce. In this case my anti-recipe philosophy paid off, and I made my best batch of cranberry sauce ever! It was delicious and the texture was perfect. I’m certain it was due to guesswork in the amounts of water and sugar to add.
Thursday was the old standby extended family dinner. I wore a fancy outfit, caught up with some family members, and possibly ate more shrimp hors d’oeuvres than turkey. The dinner, the cocktails, and the company were all pretty good for me!
Friday, my mom and I had the backup turkey that had been acquired in case of inclement weather keeping us from the big family dinner. (My mom’s wife is vegan, so she had some kind of tofurkey instead.) Leftover cranberry sauce and stuffing, some potatoes, peas, and probably other things I can’t remember made a nice Thanksgiving dinner #2.
I spent Saturday night with my dad. We had leftovers from his holiday meal–turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and then some serious chocolate for dessert.
And I’ve been eating leftover turkey ever since… I’m not complaining. I’m glad I haven’t had to go to the grocery store yet.
I have made a number of dishes that I intended to write about soon after, but somehow time just slipped by me. Now it’s been quite a while, probably two months or even more, since I made these things, but I enjoyed them so much that I still want to write about them.
1. Cranberry sauce!
This is actually the first time I’ve made it without a recipe. Previously I made it for Thanksgiving, and if you’re cooking something for a special meal involving other people, you don’t want to take the risk that you’ll screw it up. If I’d ruined the cranberry sauce, there would have been none, and what, WHAT I ask, is Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce? Crap. That’s what. But this time, I found cranberries at $1 per bag at a small produce market, and as I’d been wanting to make cranberry sauce for a while, I decided to get one. Then of course it sat in the fridge for 2-3 weeks until it was a choice of either making the sauce or throwing them away.
I put 1-2 cups of water in the pot with the cranberries and started boiling that. (It was more than 1 cup, but I wasn’t being very precise in measuring so I don’t know exactly how much.) So then, when the cranberries had started bursting their insides out all into the water, I went to add the sugar. It turned out that I had almost no sugar. I’d run out of white sugar ages before, and my brown sugar had almost completely solidified. (I don’t bake much, so I never really worry about stocking these things.) I chipped as much as I could off the sugar block, poured it in the pot, and threw the rest away. I still haven’t bought new sugar yet.
I felt it needed a bit more sweetener than that, so I added a healthy pour of agave nectar. It won’t give your sauce the same flavor as sugar, but it will help to balance out the sourness of the cranberries just as well. I also added a very small amount of ground nutmeg. A minimal sprinkling added a very subtle flavor, but unless you REALLY love nutmeg, I wouldn’t add very much at all.
Feeling experimental, I added 2 teaspoons or so of vanilla extract. I think the kind I have is bourbon vanilla extract, but you can add any kind you have on hand. It made it so delicious. I highly recommend adding vanilla extract to your cranberry sauce.
I actually still have some of the sauce in the fridge. I have no idea if it’s still good.
2. Zucchini chili-mango stir fry with brown rice!
I had bought this seriously enormous zucchini and it had to be used fairly quickly. I decided to stir-fry a large portion of it and eat it with rice. The stir-fry was composed of zucchini and yellow bell pepper, I think. There wasn’t much in it, but that’s ok. For a sauce, I used the remainder of this mango chili marinade that had been in the fridge for at least five months, diluted a little with water so that it would coat the veggies better. I thought it might end up too sweet, but even though it was on the sweet side, it was just perfect.
I’m a jasmine rice kind of lady, so I’ve only made brown rice once or twice before. I forgot how much longer it takes to cook than regular rice, and as a result the veggies were ready way before the rice was. Imagine my surprise, however, when it turned out the brown rice was SO TASTY!! I’ve had brown rice before, of course, and it always tasted kind of bland and boring. Somehow it was really good this time. I don’t think it was the sauce from the stir-fry that did it, either. Unfortunately, I have no idea how I did this or if I’ll be able to replicate it. Maybe I just really like brown rice now.
That sure came out of nowhere.
3. Breadcrumb-fried zucchini slices over linguine!
To use the rest of the zucchini, I decided I wanted to fry it in breadcrumbs. I used a fairly half-assed version of your standard breadcrumb-coating method, with panko breadcrumbs because that was the only kind I had. Italian-style breadcrumbs would have been better. But that’s ok. I placed the slices in my pan of hot oil, flipped them carefully, and then put them on a paper-towel-lined plate when done. The trick is to keep a careful eye on the oil to make sure it doesn’t get too hot, or you’ll end up burning everything.
I decided they’d be delightful over pasta, so I made up some linguine (does anyone else feel like pasta always takes so much longer than you expect it to?), tossed it with olive oil, black pepper, basil, and oregano, and laid several zucchini slices on top. There may have also been tomatoes. I must say, the plating was lovely, but I wasn’t really in a “taking pictures of my food” space when I was cooking any of these things. So there are NO PICTURES. However, I’d be quite happy to make this again if anyone’s interested in a more detailed non-recipe with pictures–I might use eggplant next time, though. Of course, I won’t know you want to see this unless you comment.
I’ve made some other fairly standard meals as well, which all turned out delicious, but they’ve been the sort of extremely basic meals that pretty much anyone can make. Literally. I’ve had a lot of egg sandwiches in the last two months or so.
Now, what’s that you say about requests? …is what I’m sure you’re asking.
I think it would be fun to try to make some ideas that come from random people on the internet. Or people I know, too, but if you make the request in real life and not here, I won’t do it.
My one rule* is that it can’t be baked goods. Those can only be successfully made without a recipe if you’re experienced enough to know what you’re doing. I do not know what I’m doing. On the rare occasions when I do actually bake, I follow the recipe. If I were to try it, I would just be wasting all the ingredients on something that will most likely be edible but not worth eating. If it’s something for which I could use pre-made pastry (pie crusts, crescent rolls, etc.), that would be doable.
*I’m also not going to make anything involving brains, tongues, sweetbreads, animal feet, or anything super weird like that. Because ew.
Keep in mind I have very nearly literally NO money right now, so it might be a little while before I can actually afford the ingredients. That’s ok though! I’ll make a list and do whatever I can in this regard.
(Which, incidentally, is the name of a great song by Baby Strange.)
This is the first time I’ve bought a turkey. I did help make the turkey one year. Tomorrow I’m lugging it over to my friends’ apartment and then it will be cooked and consumed along with many delicious sides. I made the cranberry sauce this past weekend. It tasted perfect when I tried it, right between cooling to room temp and sticking in the fridge. I’m sure it’s still going to be tasty tomorrow.
Let’s get one thing straight here: Thanksgiving is not about being thankful. Maybe that’s what it’s supposed to be, maybe that’s how it’s named, but that’s not what it is. It’s a day for overeating, obligations, and feeling lonely and/or pathetic if you don’t have plans.
I’m sure there are people who don’t have plans and don’t feel that way, but I sure would.
For me, I was always more interested in the food than anything else. All the earlier Thanksgivings I can remember involved a gathering of everyone in my extended maternal family. She has four siblings, and with that large collection of people I always had to sit at the kids’ table. I felt left out and a little lost in that big group, and then we’d always watch that stupid B.C. holiday cartoon, which is not the type of thing I would have chosen to watch every year. I was never allowed to go and read because that’s “antisocial.” But it was still nice to have somewhere to go, to know that the food was going to be great and that these people cared about me.
At one point, I stopped going back there every year. It made more sense to stay on campus during a few of my college years, and, my parents being divorced, I discovered that it was nicer in a way to go have Thanksgiving with a smaller group of people (just the two of us, sometimes…) and to see him a little more.
This year, as I only have Thursday off for the week, I’m sticking close and doing the holiday with some friends who also are not leaving Boston. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, alcohol… A small group of people I really like being around and no one’s going to make me watch that damn cartoon again. Can’t complain.
I also have decided to wear a fabulous pair of shoes I have.
Happy Thanksgiving! If anything interesting happens with the cooking, I’ll post about it.
I should maybe clarify: I don’t mean that I feel as if I am a chicken pot pie. I mean that I want one.
I’m thinking about the crusty pastry and the nice warm, hearty filling, one of those perfect cold-weather foods.
There’s a diner style restaurant down the street from me where I could get a nice freshly made one for barely more than you’d pay for a (good) frozen one. I don’t know if I’d want the frozen type, with its cubes of almost-chicken and its tendency to burn or get all hard in one spot, inedible.
Of course, I’m not going to have it today. I’ve already determined that tonight’s the night I use my Osushi coupon.
Do you ever feel that food is just too difficult?
I got cranberries last night! This is the first time ever I will be making cranberry sauce. I will be using a recipe, since this is for Thanksgiving and not for food experiment. However, I do have one interesting thing to try on it, and I bought two packages of cranberries so I guess if I ruin the first try, I can have another go. Problem: I don’t think I have a zester. 😦