Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Can't you feel the holiday feeling in the air today? The kitchen is bustling, the front door swings wide with company, the house smells fantastic, the Christmas carols are floating through the air, and I get to spend the day engaged in my favorite hobby: cooking. I feel envigorated! Last night I brined the turkey, made the gravy base, cranberry sauce and four pie crusts. Today I'll finish off the pies and do all the chopping and prepping for side dishes. And tonight the party really kicks off.
Instead of making dinner in an already chaotic kitchen, a few years ago we started a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Dinner tradition. If you remember from the cartoon, pushy Peppermint Patty coerces good old Chuck into inviting all of the gang over for Thanksgiving dinner. Trouble is, poor old Charlie Brown has no idea how to pull it off. With the help of Snoopy and Woodstock, he sets up the ping pong table with a mish mash of chairs and then serves a fine feast of buttered toast, pretzels, popcorn, jelly beans and pink sherbet. And that has become our official Thanksgiving Eve dinner (with a few grilled cheese sandwiches thrown in for good measure). The cousins look forward to the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Eve party every bit as much-and maybe even more-as the real Turkey day tomorrow. It takes a little premature pressure off the cooks too! And tonight we'll break into a pie or two. I confess that they taste ever so much better the night before, when one is not button-bursting full.

Happy Thanksgiving! There is so much to be grateful for, even during these penny pinching times. I'm counting my blessings. I'm absolutely astounded by the kind comments that everyone has left regarding my absence. I count the connection with my dear readers as one of my greatest blessings this year. Thank you for coming here, trying the recipes, reading the words, and for leaving comments. I appreciate it more than you'll ever know. Have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Catching Up with Tuesdays with Dorie

You know, every Tuesday that I was away in Europe, I felt a small twinge of longing. Before I left on my trip, I faithfully made all of the Tuesdays with Dorie assignments, and fully planned to post them as I traveled along. After a frustrating night of spotty Internet in Rome with an Italian keyboard, I realized that my time would be much better spent in enjoying the moment. And still, on Tuesdays I wished I could participate with my posts but even more so, I longed to peek at all the other TWD posts. So here's what I missed while I was away. Rice pudding. It's quite pretty, true. It doesn't make me do a back flip or shout Hallelujah, but it's better than I remember. When I lived in South America, I had cinnamon rice pudding at least twice weekly, and I learned to tolerate it. Dark chocolate rice pudding and white chocolate raspberry rice pudding are more palatable, sure, but my picky mouth still wonders why there are roly-poly bits of rice in my beautiful chocolate. It's like orange juice with pulp; I wanted to strain it with my teeth.
Next up was the Kugelhopf, a pleasant mix of yeast risen bread and cake. I made mine with shredded apples and a buttery cinnamon sugar coating. And while it was pleasing to the palate, I bemoaned the fact that it wasn't a bit sweeter. Honestly, I put more sugar in my dinner rolls than the bitty 3 tablespoons used in the dough. The outside of the cake is brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar, which is delicious, but only made me want to skin the cake and skip the middle. Which is what I did. It saves calories to eat only the yummiest part. Then with your saved calories, you can eat even more of the yummiest part.

My favorite, by far, of this month's assignments was today's Twofer pie, a happy marriage of two Thanksgiving favorites-pecan and pumpkin. Baking pie on the Monday night before the holiday seemed like an excessively premature thing to do, so I skipped the crust, halved the recipe , and baked the filling in three little custard cups. IT'S GOOD! Really and truly good. So good that now in addition to the apple ginger, mixed berry, pecan chocolate, pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin streusel pies that I'll be making tomorrow, now I'll be making a big TWOFER pie too. You can get the recipe here at Vibi's gorgeous French blog. Scroll down and you'll find the recipe in English, never fear. Ay mamacita! Thank goodness there will be nearly 30 of us to devour them.
And here's a naughty little secret: we always devour at least one pie on Wednesday night. Tomorrow night's going to be wild at our house. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.
Happy Birthday to two of my little sisters today. Heidi and Catherine, born three years apart but on the same day.
Come Back Tomorrow:
Our Fun Night Before Thanksgiving Dinner Tradition

Monday, November 24, 2008

Safely Home

Although my fuzzy head still feels that is on a plane or a train or a bus or a boat, I'm really truly home. HOME! I haven't been home since Halloween night. I've been gallavanting around New York, Rome, Venice, Lucerne, Paris, London, and the Isle of Guernsey. I believe I have mentioned the generosity of my father before, but here is further evidence of his virtue: Dad planned, organized and payed for all of his ten children and their spouses to traipse through Europe, culminating with a few days on the Isle of Guernsey to retrace the steps of our family name. Amazingly, the BBC picked up on our story and interviewed our family for their radio show. Here's the link: Interview for BBC Let me not also forget to mention the kindness of my mother and father in law in New York, for taking charge of the two charges while the Quiet Man and I were away. Not a tear was shed in our absence. Better than the food, the sites, the art, the history, the world at my feet-better than anything was the chance to spend 14 days in the company of my brothers and sisters. I reverted to my silly childhood personality, the one buried underneath a decade of responsibility and deadlines, and spent a good 20 hours a day laughing and talking. I've resolved to slow down and enjoy this journey we call life a little bit more. Especially for the sake of my own little children, who are so ready to giggle and talk and watch clouds float across the sky. It's good to be home. I've missed you, dear readers!

Here's a shot from my birthday in Paris. See my little brother with his tongue sticking out? Some things never change!Coming Tomorrow:
Tuesdays with Dorie
Catching up with Rice Pudding and Kugelhopf
and maybe maybe maybe pecan pumpkin pie

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cranberry Orange Rugelach

Greetings from my New York vacation and welcome to Tuesdays with Dorie. Today's pretty little cookie will put you in the mood to visit a European bakery and then go walking down the lane, ringing bells and singing Christmas carols. It's a little early, I know. But I can't help what I feel like when I eat a tender-buttery and sweet little nibble. And really, I might be early for Christmas carols, but I'm not at all early for European bakeries. Tomorrow I'll be in Rome for the start of a tour through Italy, Switzerland, France, England, and the Isle of Guernsey. I might as well leave my mouth agape, since I plan to eat my way through the land of my ancestors. If these cookies are any kind of preview, then I can't promise any self control at all. But I do promise to stockpile recipes, ideas, and stories to share, right here at Prudence Pennywise.

For today's cookie recipe, and some phenomenally gorgeous pictures, check out Piggy's Cooking Journal. This cookie would be a scene stealer on a Christmas cookie platter.
Notes: I made three version of the cookie, cinnamon-sugar pecan, chocolate pecan, and orange marmalade and cranberry. The cranberry orange was the best in my opinon. Since the tender cream cheese dough has no sugar, sweeter fillings bring a better balance. Dorie's version called for currants, cinnamon sugar, nuts and jam-all together. For my fellow penny pinchers, the estimated cost for this one is $5.00 for about 32 cookies.
Coming Thursday:
Vermont Cheddar, Ham, and Apple Grilled Cheese

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

Greetings from New York. Early Saturday morning, a mere six hours after we carted in the trick-or-treat candy, the two charges and I hopped a flight to upstate for a visit with Oma and Opa, the Quiet Man's parents. The little ones carried their violins onto the airplane, while I loaded my carry-on down with a sack full of candy and a stack of novels. It was a case of serious overpacking. I should know myself better by now; I never want a piece of candy on November 1st. For me, the sugary charm is over on October 31st-and in some cases even earlier. This year for example, after various batches of donuts and, ahem, a last minute Halloween Day foray into MORE cupcake making (ay mamacita!), candy has temporarily lost it's appeal. I didn't even desire a single piece on Halloween Day and my little cowboy actually chose an apple out of his treatbag over his miniature candy bars. (You can still get apples for trick or treat when you live in Smalltown, USA.)
So if you are looking for a recipe to help you use up your extra crunchies and chewies, I'm afraid you have come to the wrong place. It'll be at least a week before I'll be able to look the black and orange sweeties in the eye. And even then, I prefer to take my sugar with butter and flour, warm out of the oven.
But, if you're looking for liquid penance, a healthful and hearty soup to hose down the sugar and enliven the tastebuds, then read on. This cousin to a minestrone is quick to make, belly-warming, and best of all-it tastes even better the next day. So forget about the Snickers, the Reeses, the Whoppers, the Twizzlers. This soup is the treat you've been looking for.
Money Saving Tips:
You'll save money over the canned varieties, not to mention produce far superior results by making homemade soup. You can use bouillion cubes and water for the broth, or look for cans or broth to be on sale, especially between now and Thanksgiving. This soup makes great use of leftover pasta as well.
Tuscan Vegetable Soup
Estimated Cost: $6.50 for 6 servings
Notes: If you are using leftover pasta, add it in at the very end, just to heat through. If you have any leftovers, you'll need to add more liquid before serving.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 (14 ounce) can Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained, pureed until smooth in blender
1 (14 ounce) can kidney beans, undrained
2 (14 ounce) cans vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup small pasta, uncooked
1 yellow summer squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, about five minutes. Add basil, pepper flakes, vinegar and brown sugar and cook for 30 seconds. Add pureed tomatoes, beans, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add pasta, squash, and green beans. Bring to a simmer and cook until pasta and green beans are cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Taste soup and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil or parsley, if desired.
Coming Tommorow:
Tuesdays with Dorie:
Cranberry Orange Rugelach