Since joining the Eater's Guild Winter CSA, I have a ton of root vegetables to use up, including potatoes, celeraic, white turmips, beets, onions and garlic.  No greens (pout), and that was the part I was really looking forward to.  Ah well.  So, what to do with several pounds of root vegetables?  Make soup of course.  Sally Schneider's French Winter Vegetable Soup was the inspiration for this dish.


Winter Root Vegetable Soup

Celeraic 1-2, sliced
Potato 2-3, sliced
1 Onion, sliced (I think leeks would be even better.)
1-2 cups sliced rutabaga, turnips or beetabaga (my husband's joke, seriously though, no beets)
1 parsnip (If you've got it, I substituted a sweet potato but a carrot would be good too.)
Garlic, 4-6 cloves, peeled and sliced
Bacon fat, olive oil or butter
Chicken stock
Salt and pepper, bay leaf, thyme and nutmeg
Cream
Croutons or garlic toast

Enjoy peeling and slicing all of those veggies and throw them into a deep pot with a heavy bottom, coated with a drizzle of bacon fat, butter or olive oil.  Salt the veggies lightly as you layer them in the dish.  It will help them to soften instead of brown.  Stir to coat all of the veggies with a thin veneer of oil.  Once everything is heated up and beginning to soften, add just enough water to the pot so that the top layer is still above the water.  Toss a healthy grinding of pepper, 1-2 bay leaves, thyme and nutmeg.  Cover and simmer until the vegetables can be cut or mashed with a wooden spoon.  Puree with a hand blender and add cream.  Adjust seasoning.  Garnish with croutons, garlic toast, bacon bits, chives and/or cheese (I'm using a stinky fontinella).  Bon apetite! 



 

No, I am not referring to myself (I refer to myself as "Your Rotundress"), though I have put on some pounds over the holidays.  I'm talking about the delicious pork I purchased from the Mungers of Alma, Michigan.  I purchased half of a pig from them (or as the butcher says, "half a hog") for a price so reasonable that I feel like I should send them some extra money.  The pig weighed 350 pounds! 

There are so many reasons for supporting local farmers by buying their meat, eggs, dairy and vegetables.  But consumers should buy pork from local farmers simply because it tastes better, and I'll tell you why.  No, it's not that it tastes better because of the local microbes in the soil or the organic feed they consume, although I'm sure those and other intangibles contribute to this pork's porkier flavor.  I think the biggest reason that it tastes so good is that the butchers don't add a ten percent solution to the meat like they do with most of the pork you buy in the store now adays.  They add it to the chicken, ducks and turkey too.  Water's cheap and people don't like dry meat.  What ends up happening though is that while it is easier not to over-cook or dry out these types of meat you can never really achieve the caramellization on the outside of the meat necessary for really good sauces and crispy bits.  The meat just kind of steams.  Even on the grill.  So while this pork might be a bit trickier to cook, the results are far superior to the juicy gray blob that is injected pork.

Pork Chops and Gnocchi with Mustard Sauce (adapted from Nigella Lawson)

One pork chop per person

1/4 pound gnocchi per person

Whole grain mustard

Heavy cream

Chicken stock

Green beans (I used frozen haricots verts available at Trader Joe's and Aldi)

Splash of cider vinegar

S & P

heat a pasta pot of water to a boil.  Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.  Heat a cast iron pan over high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Sear the pork chops for 3-5 minutes per side.  Place on a platter in warm oven. Repeat with all of the pork chops.  Salt the pasta water and drop your gnocchi. Deglaze the pork chop pan with a bit of chicken stock and a splash of cider vinegar, scraping up all of the yummy bits.  Squirt in a healthy amount of whole grain mustard, about 1 tablepoons per pork chop.  Add a splash or more of heavy cream and stir to combine.  Adjust seasonings.  Pull your gnochi from the pasta pot when they float and toss them in the mustard sauce.  Add the haricots verts to the pasta water.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Toss green beans and gnocchi in the mustard sauce.  Spoon some of the sauce over the pork chops and serve.

 

On Christmas I try to make a breakfast that can be thrown in the oven while the kids open their presents.  My kids, however, are not particularly crazy about savory breakfast casseroles.  So, this year i asked them what they wanted for breakfast on Christmas Day in the morning and they asked for corned beef hash.  Simple enough.  Heat in pan and serve.  But I didn't want to do anything fiddly with it like eggs and toast.  So I found a recipe for Baked Peach French Toast to serve alongside it.   Made me think of a peach upside-down cake.  I served it with the corned beef hash and orange wedges.

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter  
1 (29 ounce) can sliced peaches, drained
1 medium loaf of stale French bread, cubed
1 1/2 cup of milk
 5 eggs
Cinnamon, nutmeg and/or allspice


In the dish you plan to bake the French toast in melt the half cup of butter (in the microwave (feel like Paula Deen).  Add the brown sugar and stir to combine.  Pop back in the microwave for a few minutes until the brown sugar mixture is caramel-like an fragrant.  Place peaches in the caramel mixture. Top with cubed French bread. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Slowly pour over the bread slices to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.  (Um, at this point mine seemed a bit dry, so I drizzled a litle egg nog over it.  Let me tell you, it didn't hurt it a bit.) Remove the dish from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bread is golden brown. Spoon out portions to serve.





 

1. I must clean out my underwear drawer before I die.

2. You can't stop breathing.

3. I wish I never had to buy gasoline again.

4. My DVR has helped me change my life.

5. I know the song Into the Mystic by heart.

6. If I weren't so afraid, I would start working out.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to driving to my sister's, tomorrow my plans include my nephew Max's birthday and Sunday, I want to visit my grandmother in Port Huron!

 

All of the stress of Christmas goes away when I'm just spending time at home with my close family.  It's the running around that drives me nuts.  I am so happy to be spending this Christmas at home with my family, thanks to my nother-in-law Barb being in Wilmington, North Carolina (God bless you, Kathy and Ralph).  I feel that they might have their hands more full with her than we do with four boys.  At least she naps.  A lot.

Looking around my house this afternoon I felt overwhelming gratitude for all of the blessings in my life.  I am thankful for four healthy little boys who still believe in Santa Claus (can you believe it?).  I am blessed with a husband who somehow overlooks my many faults including my baby-damaged body and simply adores me.  I live in a small but sturdy house that holds within it everything and everyone I hold dear. 

I am anticipating many changes in our lives in the coming year, including a move to a bigger house, Dave becoming a partner, and Charlie starting kindergarten.  It's a lot to take in, especially when I'm so happy with things the way they are right now.  Ah, well.  Even more things to be grateful for in 2009!

 

Guys, I'm not a baker.  But on Friday I baked three batches of cookies and I didn't (Silpat rules).  My favorite one was the Citrus Spritz Cookies recipe.  Easy, easy, easy.  And I made it with my mom's old crank spritz press.  The results were delicious.  A buttery cookie with citrus zest and a tangy bit of cream cheese.  I added a citrus glaze to them a day later and they got even better.  Even my dessert-phobe brother-in-law liked them. 

 

1. Said the night wind to the little lamb, isn't it cold out here?
2. The first Noel, the angel did say, balloons are the devil's work.
3. Pick up some pull-ups on your way, Over the hills and everywhere.
4. It came upon the midnight clear, a plane that we thought was a star.
5. Christmas will be over soon, Let your heart be light.
6. And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing while your sons plays piano.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to the end of my snow day, tomorrow my plans include preparing for Devenney family Christmas and Sunday, I want to stay home and enjoy the blizzard!

 

Up.  I give up.  I absolutely love the holidays, but I'm drawing the line on the food business right now.  There are some recipes in my family that have been enjoyed for years and years.  Some of them include barbecued meatballs, Hanky Pankies, chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge, cocktail weiners, spicy pretzels, summer sausage and a couple different kinds of cookies.  I love all of these foods dearly, but even with four sons we are just not able to get through all of it.  I'm not cooking all of it.  I'm not cooking all of it.  I'm not cooking all of it.  We just don't need it. 

The other problem that I run into as the holiday gatherings begin this weekend and run for the next few weeks is that I feel compelled to gather all of the ingredients to prepare perfect meals.  While I feel that our country enjoys very reasonable food prices, it costs a fortune to prepare 2 or 3 special meals.  I have a house full of food.  If I don't have it, we don't need it.  Tucked away in my freezer rest some really nice celebration pieces, including two ducks, a turkey (or two), a few pork tenderloins and a leg of lamb (Dave's favorite).  What follows are the menus I propose for the following gatherings:

Saturday Dinner with Devenney Relatives
Country Style Ham (Dad)
Pumpkin buscuits (Karen)
Celeraic coleslaw (me)
Crudite (Karen and me)
Sticky toffee pudding (Karen)
Citrus salad (me)

Christmas Eve Dinner (just us)
Butternut squash soup
Barbecued meatballs
Hanky Pankies
Crab Meltaways
Apples and cheese
Schuler's cheese and chips
Egg nog


Christmas Morning

 


Christmas Day (with Dad and Grandma Warsop)
Roasted beet salad
Roast duck a la Alton Brown
Maple sweet potatoes
White and wild rice with dried cranberries, pecans and orange

 





 

1. Friends, I feel like I sound like John McCain when I refer to people as "friends".

2. Good health; it's the greatest blessing you can have.

3. I'm ready for a few nights away with my smokin' hot husband.

4. Cedar is one of my favorite perfumes or aftershaves or smells.

5. The oldest ornament I have is an angel my babysitter painted for me in 1974.

6. Take some flour and eggs, mix it all together and you have pasta.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to looking at a house I've been dying to see, tomorrow my plans include keeping track of George during the boys' piano recital and Sunday, I want to finish Christmas shopping and make fudge.  Plus, I can't forget to buy my darling students a little something special!

 

10.  Flu shots administered to myself and four sons with not one tear shed.

9.  Attended Charlie's field trip to the Christmas tree farm (fourth time attending).

8.  Spent 3 hours attempting to get Joe's pet rat out from between our cupboards.  Bait has included caramel, Nutella, peanut butter, chicken, sausage off a pizza, yogurt covered raisins and last but not least, water (girl's got to be getting thirsty).

7.  Family photos taken with above mentioned four sons.  George closes his eyes every time he smiles.  Who knew?

6.  Began reading Charles Dickens's Christmas stories.  A bit too heavy for me to comprehend in my fifth hour of darkness.

5. Roasted a chicken (yummo).

4.  Watched Scrooge McDuck in Micky's Christmas Carol .

3.  Made Creamy Christmas Mints with the boys and Hanky Pankies on my own.

2.  Decorated the ugliest tree we have ever purchased. (I should say, Dave has ever purchased.  Last time I send the boys to do a woman's job.)

1. Attended a school board meeting and a Christmas Sing.