Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Worth Saving: Christmas Day

This Christmas, Lynn had the great idea to serve prime rib (2 pork and 2 beef--there was plenty left over.) Our sides were ranch potatoes, gratin of cauliflower, green bean casserole and spinach salad.
A decision was also made to discontinue the sibling gift exchange (unless we hear feedback :)) and try a gift exchange that includes everyone who brings a gift. We did a trial exchange this year, using Mr and Mrs Wright.

Nigella Lawson's Poinsettia Punch
Makes: 5 2/3 cups (1.4 L) for 8 to 9 glasses
(for approximately 16 drinkers we used 3 batches of ingredients in bold)
(2 bottles of Cava) 750-mL bottle Prosecco or other fizzy dry wine, chilled
(1 cup of Triple Sec) 1/2 cup (125 mL) Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Triple Sec, chilled
(4 cups of cranberry juice) 2 cups (500 mL) cranberry juice, chilled
Mix the Prosecco or other fizzy wine with the Cointreau (or Grand Marnier or Triple Sec) and cranberry juice in a large pitcher.
Pour into wineglasses or champagne flutes.

Spinach Salad with Bosc Pears, Cranberries, Red Onion, and Toasted Hazelnuts Epicurious 
November 2009
by Diane Morgan
The New Thanksgiving Table
This spinach salad speaks to all the wonderful autumnal flavors of the Pacific Northwest. The new crop of bronzed Bosc pears is piled high at the farmers' market; the hazelnuts have been harvested, shelled, and bagged for sale; and the cranberries arrive from the Long Beach, Washington, coastal bogs. I buy sweetened dried cranberries from a local producer, but they are readily available at the grocery store (Ocean Spray is a good-quality packager), found alongside raisins and other dried fruits. This salad is a snap to assemble if you buy the packaged prewashed and trimmed baby spinach.
Yield: Serves 8

Dressing ( Sara tweaked this. Lemon juice is all I can remember)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
8 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed if needed (or big container from Costco)
2 firm but ripe Bosc pears (do not peel), quartered lengthwise, cored, and cut into long, thin slices
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted (see Cook's Notes) and chopped

To make the dressing, in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
Place the onions in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes. This crisps the onion and takes away the raw onion taste. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels.
In a small bowl, toss the cranberries with 2 tablespoons of the dressing to soften them. Set aside for at least 20 minutes or until ready to serve the salad.
To assemble the salad, place the spinach, onions, and pears in a large bowl. Give the remaining dressing a last-minute shake and pour over the salad. Toss to coat evenly. Arrange the salad in a large serving bowl or divide it evenly among 8 salad plates. Scatter the cranberries and hazelnuts over the top(s). Serve immediately.

Cook's Notes
(use boiling water/baking water method to remove hazelnut skins)
Try to buy shelled hazelnuts (also called filberts) with the brown, papery skins removed as well. To toast, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a preheated 375°F oven. Toast for about 12 minutes until lightly browned. If the nuts still have the skins on, transfer them while they’re hot to a clean kitchen towel. (Use a clean towel that is old or you don’t mind washing with bleach, because the skins tend to discolor the fabric.) Rub the nuts to remove most of the skins (they never come completely off).
You can substitute unsalted cashews for the hazelnuts. Toast cashews, as directed above for hazelnuts, for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned.

Do Ahead
(add cranberries and sliced onion when making dressing ahead)
The dressing can be made up to 1 day in advance, covered tightly, and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 2 hours before serving. The nuts can be toasted up to 1 day in advance; store at room temperature in an airtight container. The onions and cranberries can be prepared up to up to 4 hours in advance. Set aside at room temperature.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In the Shower with the NRA

After listening to Wayne LaPierre off and on throughout 12/21/12, I first struggled with my idealist belief that an organization that has (like so many other groups and organizations over the past 12 years) isolated itself from public opinion and discourse, might come out with a speech that would rock our world--in a good way. Sadly, they responded (after an entire week to contemplate) exactly the way realists predicted.

I come from a long line of hunters and gatherers, and for the most part, this heritage has ended--with the exception of one nephew. But the memories of my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and their friends, planning their hunting trips and then gathering together around one of their dining room tables to carefully cut and package what would help feed each family, are still fresh in my brain. As well as the deer leather gloves each family hunter received from the donation of hides and the collection of rifles kept under lock and key  in our home (though hardly secure in that beautiful, glass front cabinet). Why do I tell you this? To add necessary shading to the  illustration of my point of view.

And now I come to my second thought (which came to me in the usual place--the shower). Perhaps it's finally time for the rest of us to foster the creation of a new organization, peeling away the layers of a group that once claimed to promote gun education and rights. The need for gun safety and education is at an all time high and so is the need to eliminate the NRA's promotion of fear of our fellow human beings and over losing gun rights. (Have gun rights ever truly been threatened?) Possible name:  "Responsible Gun Owners of America"?

Those who seek change, could use social media to broadcast and promote this idea. I believe it's time. What say you?

Opinion piece from Michael Bloomberg
Opinion by Tom Watson on Forbes

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snowflakes, Starflakes and Swirlflakes

For your winter break enjoyment:

Operator, information . . .

Not sure if I should feel comforted or slightly freaked out. In the wee, dark hours of the night, I thought I heard a phone ring. I lay in bed and waited for another ring or for Fran to come into the bedroom and tell me someone was on the phone. Of course, my first thought was concern that maybe something had happened to my dad. And it's during this recounting that I realize I must've been asleep. Why else would I have stayed in bed and not checked my phone?

When I woke up in the morning, the feeling someone needed me or needed to get in touch with me was still strong. I emailed my sisters after checking for messages and missed calls. They both told me all was fine, but my oldest sister reminded me that last night was the anniversary of when my Mom has passed away in her sleep.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

President Obama speaks at Newtown Memorial

from The New York Times:

"To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us, “Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.

For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.

We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.

I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight.

And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone.

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch.

They did not hesitate.

Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy — they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances, with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and kept steady through it all and reassured their students by saying, “Wait for the good guys, they are coming. Show me your smile.”

And we know that good guys came, the first responders who raced to the scene helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and their own trauma, because they had a job to do and others needed them more.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do, one child even trying to encourage a grown-up by saying, “I know karate, so it’s OK; I’ll lead the way out.”

As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.

With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them.

They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.

It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose — much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.

Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

You know, all the world’s religions, so many of them represented here today, start with a simple question.

Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?

We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.

The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger, we know that’s what matters.

We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

That’s what we can be sure of, and that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison, God has called them all home.

For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in his heavenly place. May he grace those we still have with his holy comfort, and may he bless and watch over this community and the United States of America."

The president then folded the binder containing his notes and exited the stage. Seemingly the entire crowd then rose to gave him a sustained ovation.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sweet Potato Love

Over the past couple of years I've been developing an increasing appreciation of sweet potatoes, thanks to daughter Fran's cooking. Last week, daughter Lise made these sweet potato fries to go with a rotisserie chicken for a quick dinner. Heavenly! Absolutely heavenly! They were tender and moist on the inside with a caramelly tasting, slightly crunchy exterior.

I suppose that's why I woke up Saturday wondering if there were any recipes for sweet potato hash browns on the web. I began a search that left me wondering which version to make. The cakes or the hash browns?

Jodi on Twitter suggested I make one version on Saturday and the other on Sunday. I was still wondering whether it was a wise experiment. So I stored that idea and crept on.

I included all the recipes below, because I borrowed from each to make 2 dishes that best suited N's and my tastes. I made simple hash browns for Saturday, seasoning only with salt and pepper, yet including the onion sauteed in bacon fat.

On Sunday morning, I took the remaining half of food processor shredded sweet potatoes (yes, 2 medium/large potatoes are twice as many as two people need) and borrowed from two of the other recipes to create patties with egg whites, olive oil, parmasean and Gruyere cheese and rosemary.

I'll be making both versions again and again and again. What pushed the patties over the top for me? Two over easy eggs on top. What I'll add next time? I'm thinking a patty or two of breakfast sausage. My taste buds hinted that would be a delightful accompaniment.
~K <3

Remember, sweet potatoes will turn to mush with too many flicks of the spatula--utilize the timer to curb overflipping tendency. 
(click here to print all)

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

1 ½ pounds sweet potato, peeled, shredded
1 cup chopped onion
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Mix sweet potatoes and onions in a large bowl. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-low to medium heat in a large skillet. Add about half of the sweet potatoes and onions, and stir to coat. Press with a spatula to flatten. Cook about 7-8 minutes; do not stir. Flip, and cook another 3-5 minutes. Remove from skillet, and set aside. Repeat to cook remaining vegetables. When done, combine the two batches in the skillet. Cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about ½ cup)

Recipe Notes
To shred potatoes, it's best to use a food processor (shredding disc attachment). Variation: Use a combination of sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold or russet potatoes.
Makes a great breakfast dish!

(K's notes: Only used sweet potato/yam. Shredded, sprinkled with water, covered with side vents and microwaved until just tender, seasoned with a tsp rosemary, salt, pepper, gruyere and Parmesan cheese, left out curry)
Crispy Sweet Potato Hash Brown Cakes

Makes about 10-12 pancakes
1 large sweet potato, skin removed and grated
2 medium white potatoes, skinned and grated
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp paprika
dash of salt and pepper
1-2 TB olive oil for skillet

Blend ingredients and form into rounded patties with hands with about 1/3 cup of mixture. Place oil in pan over medium heat and cook pancakes for about 4 minutes until nicely browned on each side.  Serve with a bit of yogurt and cilantro or as desired.  These are great with curried chicken and a salad.

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

1/4 pound diced bacon
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound sweet potatoes (roughly 3 medium) — peeled and grated
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, fry the bacon until crispy, about 8 minutes.
Add the onions and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the garlic and sweet potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.
Source: Emeril Lagasse

Rosemary and cheese sweet potato hash browns

For hash brown
3 medium sweet potatoes
5-6 slices pickled jalapenos
1 tbsp corn flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rosemary
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Grate the sweet potatoes and add the corn flour, salt, pepper, jalapenos, rosemary and 1 tbsp olive oil to it. Mix well and keep aside. Mix the rest of the olive oil and rosemary in a bowl. Heat the skillet and  brush it with the olive oil and rosemary. Fill the molds with the sweet potato mix. Top with grated Parmesan  cheese, cover  and  cook on  medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Keep checking to see that it doesn't burn. Slide them out out with a tooth pick or a sharp knife and serve