Sorry for the lack of posting this week and in the coming weeks. I have 91.95 hours to bill before December 31st in order to get bonus this year, so I'm a bit too busy to post much. I'm hoping to bill 20-some hours this weekend, which means I won't have to work on vacation. Oh, lawyering...
I took 400 photos at a doodle romp last weekend, but I haven't had time to edit and post them. I promise to get to it pronto. At least in the meantime I finished addressing all my Christmas cards. If you're lucky, you might be seeing one soon! There may even be some shots of Harper girl in there. Shocker.
It must really be Christmas if we're out shopping for Christmas trees.
We didn't make it to our favorite Christmas tree farm this year, but we visited our favorite local lot which supports the Sea Scouts. (Boy Scouts of the sea apparently.)
The boys and dads put in a lot of work, but I'm sure they end up making plenty of money off this fundraiser.
At $98/tree, how could they not? (Ours was not $98.)
Here is John posing with our lucky lady. I went in hoping for a three foot tree, and somehow we left with a six footer. Oh well, it is a beautiful tree nonetheless.
I'm a sucker for a pine-scented winter home.
The Sea Scouts have a helpful netting contraption to net your tree before you take it home.
As you can see, our tree baaaaarely fit in the car with us. I forgot to take a picture of it all decked out, but I promise you that it's lighting up the room I'm blogging from. Merry Christmas, everybody!
Celebrating Christmas with your family early means the holiday season really does last a month (like all the retailers want us to believe). I got wonderful gifts this year from my family under the tree as well as in my stocking.
My aunt is big on family history, and gave me three vintage cookbooks from our family - from 1923, 1938, and 1943, respectively. Pretty incredible.
Santa must have heard me admiring my aunt's lemon bags, because two days later I found some in my stocking. You just pop one on the end of a lemon and the seeds stay-put. Genius idea!
My brother and his wife got me three incredible cookbooks. My brother said he picked them (from my wishlist) based on what he would like to eat. I love that idea! We both share a love for Mexican food since we ate it almost every week growing up. I can't wait to break out some of these wonderful recipes.
In New York I was the opposite of a bring-your-lunch-to-work kind of gal. I didn't just eat out every day, but I actually ordered in delivery every single day. That's some intense laziness. Now that I bring my lunch everyday, my new insulated lunch bag will get plenty of use!
A gift in my stocking was actually for Harper. It's a UVA football rope-thingie dog toy. Harper is obsessed with it. Wa hoo wa!
Reading the recipes I post on this blog is not necessarily the best reflection of what we are eating in my house. There are a lot of new recipes that I've made that haven't made it on the blog for many reasons (too ugly to photograph, I'm too lazy to photograph it, or its just not quite good enough). I probably cook on average about two new recipes a week. The rest of the week is filled with leftovers and some of our tried-and-true favorites.
This Kale Salad, above, is on the menu literally almost every week. We eat the remainder of the baguette that goes into the croutons alongside the salad to fill us up. If you haven't tried it, I definitely recommend it.
Curried Butternut and Red Lentil Soup is also a favorite in our house, and I've made it three or four times this fall/winter already. It's really easy, tastes great, and the lentils make it quite filling. If you like spicy soups, definitely try this with the diced tomatoes that come with chiles. Yum.
While this is technically a recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Chipotle Tacos, I've made this meat many times for nachos and enchiladas too. It's the easiest and most delicious way to make chicken meat for Tex-Mex food. The enchiladas I just made with it were the best I've ever made.
It's not really the time or the place for zucchini, but I do truly love this Zucchini Linguine recipe. I'm sure it would still be wonderful with sad out-of-season zucchini. I made it a month or two ago and we scarfed it down.
Now that we're back on the West Coast, I won't be seeing any more roaring fires for awhile. My uncle and sister-in-law managed to keep one lit during almost every waking hour, and it was beautiful and comforting.
We spent the night before we left for Indianapolis surrounded by teenage girls and their moms at the Katy Perry concert. John got me floor seats for my birthday and the show was fun, ridiculous, and wonderfully over-the-top.
Our yearly supply of waffle cookies that we brought back from Indy disappeared in two days. Sad, but not surprising.
Natalie got me some baking gifts just in time for my Thanksgiving pie-a-thon. The bird is actually a pie funnel to allow the steam to escape from a pie to keep the top crisp.
I hope everyone is enjoying the fall produce as much as I am. I stick a pear and apple in my purse every morning to bring to work.
I'm not out to go out and ruin something perfect like mac and cheese. I like healthy food, but I like food that tastes good more. And if it tastes great, all the better.
I used to think that the only way to improve upon mac and cheese was to add bacon. And perhaps more cheese.
As it turns out, a helping of vegetables actually improves mac and cheese, bringing some depth to the dish.
This isn't like Jessica Seinfeld sneaking vegetables into food for kids, making nobody happy in the process. This is making a basil crumb topping to brighten the flavors. This is pulsing together creme fraiche, cheese, and cherry tomatoes to create an irresistible filling.
I'm the first to admit that cutting up a butternut squash isn't my favorite activity, but if you aren't up to the task, feel free to buy some pre-cut squash. Roasting the squash before adding it to the mac assures that it is completely tender by the time you're digging in.
This is no "healthified" mac and cheese that takes away everything delicious about mac and cheese. Instead it just adds to the beauty of an already great dish. Dig in!
1 small butternut (or other winter) squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into tiny pieces
1 bunch of basil, stems removed
2 slices good wheat bread, stale or dried out in oven
Small head of broccoli, roughly chopped
1/2 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
3 cups white cheddar cheese, grated
3 cups gruyere, grated
1 pint or yellow cherry tomatoes
3 cups (300 g) dried whole wheat macaroni
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Place pieces of squash on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, pulse half the basil, all of the dried out bread, the broccoli, and a glug of olive oil in a food processor until a fine crumb forms. Remove crumbs to a bowl and rinse out the food processor.
In a separate bowl, combine grated cheese and creme fraiche.
Place the cherry tomatoes and the remaining half of the basil in the food processor. Pulse a couple of times to break things up. Stir in the grated cheese and creme fraiche mixture.
Boil macaroni in salted water until just slightly undercooked. Drain, reserving one cup of pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot it was boiled in and stir in the cheese mixture. Add pasta water, as needed, to thin the mixture to the consistency of cream. If it is runny, the pasta will soak it up in the oven.
Transfer pasta mixture to a large baking or casserole dish. Sprinkle with green crumbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the topping is crunchy. Wait ten minutes before serving.