Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Casserole

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday weekend (or regular weekend!) and that you are now ready for the holiday season.  Did you fill yourself to the brim with turkey and stuffing on Thursday?  Or were you like me and had some Buffalo chicken at the local bar?  Did you head out Friday morning and fight the crowds?  Or were you like me and you stayed far far away from any store that sold anything on Friday? 

While I may have missed out on the food festivities this year, my thanksgiving was not without celebration.  I just enjoyed my thanksgiving holiday in the morning and spent the afternoon travelling!  Boyfriend and I spent the early morning hours under the sunny skies of New York City, watching the Macy's thanksgiving day parade. 

Having done the New York City new years eve thing once, we were concerned about the sheer numbers of people that would be at the parade.  We were told to expect 3.5 million people to line the streets of Manhattan and watch the parade with us.  The one thing that we neglected to account for was the length of the parade route.  Starting at 77th street and Central park west, travelling south to 34th street and 7th avenue, the parade winds its way over two miles of New York City pavement. 

We decided to go uptown to watch the parade, getting off the subway at 66th street and walking to the park.  By the time we got there, the sidewalks were pretty full and the police had closed off the street.  We stood three or four people back from the barracades, but boyfriend and I have a serious parade watching advantage, we're both pretty tall.  There was also another bonus, we came to see the balloons and balloons float.  The massive characters were flying high above our heads, everyone could enjoy them even without a good place to stand.

With the sunny skies and the warmer than usual temperatures, we thoroughly enjoyed the parade.  Having watched them inflate the balloons the day before, it was fun to finally see them all floating above us.  We each had our favorites and waited the whole parade to wave to Kermit the Frog.  Once Kermit flew past, we darted out of there and flew away ourselves.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sausage and Gorgonzola Mac 'n' Cheese

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I was so happy to learn that people around the world are starting to celebrate Thanksgiving. While Thanksgiving is technically a "new world" holiday, celebrating the feast between some of the first settlers of the Americas and the native American indians, the idea behind the holiday is something that everyone can get behind.

In essence, Thanksgiving is about taking a moment to think about all the great things in your life. In the United States, we take the fourth Thursday of the month of November to give thanks for all of the positives. We give thanks for family and health, new successes and old friends, sunny weather and juicy turkey. Well, those last few things might just be what I like to throw in there at the end, I really like sunny weather!

Whether you are here in the United States with me, or celebrating somewhere else around the world, Happy Thanksgiving to you. I hope that you have lots to celebrate this year, I know that I do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Potato Pie

Would it surprise you all if I tell you that I'm not cooking this Thanksgiving?  The Wilde kitchen will not only be quiet, it will be completely empty.  There will be no turkey in the oven, no potatoes on the stove and no tubes of cranberry sliced on my cutting board.  The lack of thanksgiving cooking does not mean that I'm just heading to someone elses home for the traditional feast.  Thanksgiving dinner will probably consist of pizza, or sandwiches, and I'm very excited about it.

Don't get me wrong, I love all holidays that revolve around food.  It's the main reason I like celebrating memorial day, picnics!  Thanksgiving is a long standing tradition in my family back home in Buffalo.  Every Thanksgiving of my childhood was spent preparing a dish and heading out to my Aunts house for a great big Thanksgiving dinner.  The dish that we would prepare?  Our classic Jell-O dish!

I have many memories of bundling up and hopping in the car, driving all the way to Grand Island.  The drive always felt like it took forever, although these days I know it only takes about twenty minutes to get there.  We would arrive in the house and shed our layers, slowly coming into a warm house that smelled of turkey.  That smell always brings you into the holiday spirit, if I make a turkey in the summer I still think of Thanksgiving.

We would inevitably wind up eating dinner at four o'clock.  The kids would be first in line to eat and my Uncle would always cut in front of one of us, telling us he was taller.  The adults would retreat to the dining room and the cousins would sit around the kitchen table.  At one point in the years we had dinner there, the kids were relocated to the living room, next to the dining room.  I think it was to let us feel like grown ups.  I spilled red Jell-O on the white carpet that year, the next year we were back in the kitchen.

This year is the first Thanksgiving that boyfriend and I will spend together, living in the same place.  What have we decided to do this year?  Go to New York City and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!  Since we won't be at home to prepare a giant feast this year, I prepared a little Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  It's delicious, it combines everything you want and it doesn't take five hours to prepare. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tomato and White Bean soup

I can't believe that it's almost Thanksgiving!  Where has this year gone?  I suppose that it helps that this time of year is my favorite time.  While I'm not a fan of the coming winter, I enjoy fall immensely. 

There are a series of events that make fall the best time of the year.  First, we have the changing of the leaves.  This is one of my favorite times to take a long walk outside.  When I was younger, we would always head out to Chesnut Ridge Park and walk through the leaves.  My family and I would crunch through piles of fallen leaves, while gazing at the bright colors still clinging to the branches.

After the leaves begin to change, we are greeted by Halloween.  As we've discussed before, we never got trick-or-treaters at our house.  This didn't keep us from decorating the house and carving pumpkins.  I always carved using a template, my mom always made beautiful  pumpkins without any help at all.

Once we've put away the costumes and the pumpkins have gone to the mulch pile, it was time for the most important day all year, my birthday.  I just celebrated my birthday, which means that we're in the thick of Fall!  From here we get to celebrate Thanksgiving (at least here in the USA!) and on to shopping and christmas we go.

For the next few weeks, we're all going to be very, very busy!  With that in mind, I've made you this delicious and healthy soup, that will be ready in ten minutes.  Fabulous!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Coconut-Cherry Muffins

When boyfriend and I returned from Thailand, we slept a whole bunch.  For some reason we were just fine when we got to Thailand, well almost fine.  As we walked home from dinner the first night (after sixteen hours on a plane keep in mind!), my body started falling asleep.  My feet would all of a sudden go to bed, while I was trying to walk.  There are some good looking pictures of me, falling asleep at the restaurant.  I nearly fell over at least five times on our way back to the hotel.  Someone kept making fun of me and taking pictures of me as I fell asleep.

Coconut flowers and a sprouting coconut

Look, a baby coconut!
After getting a good nights sleep, we were much better.  It was much easier to walk down the street when my legs were trying to take a nap.  The jet lag wasn't too bad and I'm assuming it was because we were so excited about being in Thailand.

Cooking down coconut syrup
Nearly finished coconut sugar
  Returning home was a totally different story.  Jet lag hit us both, hard.  We arrived home after travelling from Phuket to Hong Kong to Vancouver to New York City, in a mere twenty-four hours.  We went from eight-five degrees and high humidity to a snow-covered, below-freezing New York, it was not a pleasant return.  When we finally got back to our apartment, things went well for an hour or two.  We emptied out the suitcases, put a load of laundry in the washing machine and showered.  Then we sat on the couch and turned on some HGTV.  That's when it went downhill as we fell asleep for about four hours, oops.

Palm sugar, cooling into their traditional shape

The bees like palm sugar too!

The first morning of being back in our house we woke up at the completely unnatural hour of four o'clock am.  The rest of the week we kept falling asleep at 9:00 and waking up at 5:00.  I was so proud of us when we stayed up until the evening news on Friday night.  Yup, we're party animals.

Getting the meat out of the coconut

The finished product, coconut oil!
There was one exciting thing about coming home, other than sleeping in my own bed again, packages in the office!  While we were gone I had a few packages arrive in the apartment office.  One was a book, one was a present for boyfriend and the third was from Kelapo!  I was contacted by Kelapo just before we went on vacation about trying some of their virgin coconut oil.  After travelling to Thailand I was even more excited about getting this package in the mail because we visited a coconut farm! 
The pictures you see throughout this post were from the coconut farm, where they made everything from coconut oil, coconut (or palm) sugar, coconut milk and items made from the coconut shell.  The farm smelled wonderful and was full of bees.  At least the bees weren't interested in stinging us, they just wanted to eat the palm sugar.  When I returned home and opened up the Kelapo virgin coconut oil I was transported back to the coconut farm.  Thank you Kelapo, for bringing me back to vacation.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Honey Roasted Peanut butter cookies

Just when I had thought that we were back to our normal sleeping schedule, daylight savings time rolls around.  Nuts!  I was just getting back to sleeping normal person hours again and now I'm waking up an hour early again.  At least I'm not waking up four hours early, so it should be a little easier to adjust, two days instead of an entire week!

After readjusting to Eastern standard time, I felt like I could finally get back into the kitchen this weekend.  It's been a little while since I was in front of the oven, so I needed a little help in deciding what to make.  Early Saturday morning I was looking through recipes and trying to decide what to make for the week and I thought that we could use some cookies.

I turned to boyfriend and asked what kind of cookies he wanted.  "Peanut butter."  Okay, plain and simple.  I've posted a few peanut butter cookies on here before and thought you could use something a little more special than just plain peanut butter cookies.  Then I remembered a recipe that I made a number of years ago while I was in grad school.  I remember making them so vividly because how long it took to make the recipe. 

This is not a complicated recipe, but as written in the cookbook, this recipe yields over eight dozen cookies.  Between making the dough, baking the cookies and icing them, it took an entire evening to make the recipe as written.  I wanted to make them again, but not nearly that many cookies.  So, I present to you a smaller batch, with a bigger boost of peanut butter.  I also thought we could use a little whole grain in our treats this weekend and swapped out half of the flour for whole wheat flour. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thai Cooking

Hello everyone!  I'm back from vacation and starting to feel like a normal person again.  Unlike the previous few days where I've been a half-asleep, crazy person, going through the motions of regular life.  I think that I've finally recuperated from our 28 hour return journey and I'm ready to share some of the fun of Thailand with you all.

Over the next few days I'll be posting some of my favorite pictures from our trip, after I sort through the thousands of images that we took.  Boyfriend and I spent four crazy days in Bangkok, Thailand, followed by four relaxing days in Phuket.  I say that our days in Bangkok were crazy because there was so much to see and do, we tried to see a lot and do even more.  One of the things that I really wanted to do was take a Thai cooking class and that's just what we did on our third day in the country.

After looking around a little online, I discovered the Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy.  There were some very positive reviews and they held classes just about every day.  Bangkok cooking academy offers twelve different classes, all teaching you how to cook five Thai dishes.  I chose the Monday morning class because I really wanted to learn how to make my favorite dish, Panang curry. 

Monday morning, boyfriend and I headed out of our hotel at the reasonable hour of 8:30am and set out to the meet up location.  After riding the Bangkok SkyTrain (BTS) a short three stops, we wound up at Asoke and met our group at the Dunkin' Donuts kiosk (no joke).  We met a man with a "Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy" tag around his neck, who introduced himself as Ron, or Mr. Ron, as boyfriend and I took to calling him.  We also met our classmates, a funny couple from Sydney, Australia and a quiet guy from Singapore.

The cooking class started out with a tour through one of the small markets located throughout Bangkok.  Mr. Ron introduced us to all sorts of interesting Thai fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.  As we learned more and more about the items in the market, I quickly realized what exactly I had been eating all week.  Ohh, so those are tiny eggplants, not weird, bitter peas.  Ahhh, the orange juice I've been drinking isn't orange, it's tangerine.  It was very enlightening.  After our tour, we caught a cab for the cooking school.

The cooking school is located in a small, unassuming building, with a simple sign outside the door.  Inside the entryway was an open area with five cooktops set up.  We took off our shoes and headed inside the, luckily, air-conditioned home.  Spread out the in main room was a large mat, covered in all sorts of fruits and vegetables, knives, cutting blocks and two enourmous mortal and pestles.  We enjoyed some water and met our instructor, Nat. 

All six of us sat down at our stations and began preparing our dishes.  Something we learned during the course of our class, Thai cooking is all about the preparation.  Twenty minutes on the chopping block, followed by five minutes on the fire. 

Boyfriend and I wielded our knives and chopped everything up. 

We poured the ingredients into the mortar and pestle and ground out a delicious curry paste.

Nat took us through the secrets of Thai cooking, including using ketchup as our main ingredient in a sauce.

Finally, once we had prepped all four of our dishes, it was time to hit the fire. 

We had spent two hours chopping, grinding and mixing and spent literally thirty minutes cooking all four dishes.  It was fast, working over the fire, and someone didn't have the attention span for his stovetop.  Boyfriend spent more time taking pictures and less time stirring his pot, which meant that his curry, soup and chicken wound up unusually salty.  I am proud to say that my meal turned out pretty delicious.

The class turned out to be one of the best parts of our stay in Bangkok, fun, informative and full of great food.  While I don't think that I'll be opening up a Thai restaurant anytime soon, I now have the confidence to try my hand at more Thai dishes at home.  I'm sure my neighbors will be thrilled.

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