On {not} Casting Stones. . .

Shelter 1

It’s cold today in South Florida.

We’re going to bundle our kids up in long pants and extra sweaters and fake Uggs.

It’s going to be in the high 40’s, but when we drop our littles off at school, it’s going to feel like the low 40’s with a biting wet wind that whips in from the ocean even though, where we’re at, it’s miles away.

Today is the day I rush around packing lunches, throwing quick breakfasts to everyone, muesli here, banana and cheese there, dry cereal over there.

It’s also the day I brew an extra pot and a half of strong coffee and pour it into my fancy-pants Wal-Mart carafe.

I re-fill the store-brand sugar tin and grab a jug of juice and a carton of half and half.

My white laundry basket has turned into my supply box, and it brims with markers and crayons, glue sticks and pens, scissors and watercolors. Art journals and craft paper are crammed in around the edges, and a stack of paper cups and a box of stir sticks are wedged in wherever they fit.

Pieces of past projects still travel with me, because sometimes we go back to the favorites. Old magazines are stuffed behind the journals because we like to pore over them for clippings and textures and up-to-date colors; and last-minute, I seal my sketchbook into a zip-lock bag and toss it in with everything else.

Today, I bundle myself in three layers on top, long pants on bottom, and close-toed shoes. I’ll be outside on a patio with somewhere between 3 and 12 women. A chain link fence will stand between us and the street outside.

There will be an old man in a brown jacket standing on the corner, his Bible open in one hand as he gestures with the other and sings a haphazard hymn that only he can recognize.

When I walk in today, the security guard greets me with a smile and some small talk – this is hard-won territory for me – this conversational comfort. She used to eyeball me indifferently with not a word, just a steely glance as I signed my name on the dotted line. We’ve made our way past that now, and I think someday soon, we might call each other friends.

There was a time, not too many weeks ago, that my stomach churned with nerves before I crossed the threshold of this building.

I spent a handful nights wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. Was I even prepared for this? What if they don’t like me? What if they think this whole idea is stupid or they resent me for it?

But I went anyway and I tried to put on a confident shell.

That first day, I sat on the patio alone. No one knew why I was there, even though someone was supposed to have paved the way.

I approached a woman who wasn’t on the pre-selected list, and we chatted about where she was from, what I was doing, what she thought of living there within those walls.

Slowly women arrived. Some on the list, some not. The coordinator stopped over and said, “I say if these ladies are here and want to participate, let’s go with who we’ve got!”

So we did.

And that’s how our group started. Some of us were supposed to be there, some of us weren’t, but as it turns out, that was quite the perfect way.

The goal was this: provide an emotionally warm and welcoming social hour for ladies at the shelter. Somewhere for them to decompress, be creative, and bond; somewhere to get a good cup of coffee and a little snack with friends and leave feeling refreshed, loved, and valuable. You know – like having coffee with your girlfriends, with a side of creativity.

So that is exactly what we do.

Thank goodness we ditched the idea of pre-qualified participants: only English-speaking mothers who’ve demonstrated good nature and responsibility. Because some of them are and do and have, but some of them aren’t and don’t and may or may not. But I can say the same of me, and I don’t want to cast stones. I want to cast coffee and cookies and paintbrushes and love – with a hearty helping of eye contact that says, “someone sees who you really are and cares a great deal”.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

I’m going to keep it simple today, food-wise.

White chicken chili. In the slow cooker.

Open some cans (or freezer bags), dice some things, smash and chop some things, scoop and sprinkle some things, squeeze something, stir it all together and nestle some chicken into it all. Cover, then walk away.

Dinner will be ready in about 4 hours.

This chili, thankfully, has been a hit with every single family member so far – which is fairly rare. I think it must be the chips we use as spoons garnish. . . .

Either way. Easy peasy.

You should probably try it.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups rinsed and drained great northern beans*, DIVIDED
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 or 2 jalepenos, minced and seeded
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, chopped (scant 1/4 cup)
  • 1 (4.5 oz) can green chiles
  • 3 tsp cumin
  • 3 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 can low sodium chicken broth (or 1 3/4 cup homemade)
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 2 cups frozen corn (you could replace this with hominy if you wanted - if you like that better)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • fresh, chopped cilantro for garnish, as well as sour cream, shredded cheese (pepper jack is perfect here!), and/or corn chips. a squeeze of lime, salt, pepper.

Directions

First, mash 2 cups of beans*. Add them to crock. Then add onion through corn, including the whole beans. Stir to mix it all together. Nestle chicken into the mixture. Cover and

cook on low for 4-4.5 hours. Shred chicken before serving, add back to crock, cover, and allow to re-heat (only takes a few minutes). Then dish up and top with garnish(es).

*As far as the beans go - if you're using canned beans, just do 3 cans, and mash half and leave half whole. It doesn't need to be exactly 4.5 cups of beans.

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2015/02/03/slow-cooker-white-chicken-chili-2/

After the Absence

Heart shaped leaf

I took an unintentional leave of absence. (Leaf of absence? Heh, heh. . . . )

It wasn’t pre-planned or meditated, it just happened as I sunk into life and let myself figure a few things out by mostly unplugging. (Instagram has been my tether to the Internets).

I’ve really been in touch (and by “in touch” I really mean “consuming everyone else’s creative output”) only by means of my phone (if we’re regularly in touch via blog comments – I’m sorry, commenting from my phone just takes too darn long, but I promise – I was there!).

My dear HP Mini died the other day. I gingerly carried that little guy into the computer repair shop, and the man behind the counter, dressed in hospital scrubs (total truth), told me it would cost more to fix than it was worth.

I nodded solemnly, knowing this was the probable outcome. I was prepared for it.

The twist of the situation was that I didn’t really mind the whole “lack of internet access” part of it.

I was happy to be unplugged and living life away from the world wide web (for the most part). Being unplugged seriously reduced unnecessary and frivolous stress.

magical unicorn hairs

For the past month, I’ve been doing some internal questioning to try to decipher how I want to move forward here.

I’m not going to lie – throwing in the towel and powering down the entire thing was one of the top three options.

“Where do I go from here?” was the predominant question.

“[Wherever] I want, Napoleon” was my answer.

I’m not going to worry about what I should be doing, what might get more hits, if I’m producing enough frequently enough, whether or not I can network with it, if it will someday turn lucrative, if Foodgawker, or Craftgawker, or Tastespotting, or anyone else will grace me with their stamp of approval.

Friendship

I’m going to give myself permission to abandon a schedule, veer away from a general theme, talk about weird stuff that only a few people in the world might find interesting.

I’ve adhered to so many self-imposed regulations, parameters, and boundaries that I’ve boxed myself into a virtual corner of quiet, no-wake-zone sort-of creativity (or lack there-of), and I don’t want to stay there anymore.

“Shutting down and sinking in”  – words that kept playing over and over in my head. I’m not sure if I heard them somewhere or if my subconscious mind is trying to direct me, but that’s where I’ve been for the last month.

Mostly off-line, and sinking into home.

Since Christmas, our house has been at maximum capacity, fever pitch, a point of likely spontaneous combustion, and if I don’t get a handle on ALL THE STUFF that is taking over our house like The Blob (circa the 1958 horror film), we all might be consumed and DIE.

And me and my people (bad grammar?) have jointly needed each other. Maybe I need them more than they need me right now. Being with them instead of online grounds me and drowns out the radio static of all that business that doesn’t matter in the long run.

brush pens 1

We need the peaceful afternoons of doodling and reading and biking and general cleanliness to keep us all feeling whole and little bit more like fully functioning, real people without frayed and raw ends.

(A side story: I’m seriously de-cluttering again. I spent three hours in Little Gal’s room the other morning and pulled out two and a half kitchen garbage bags of various overflow – garbage, toys, books, clothes. Her 6×8 foot room  is organized like it’s been through bedroom boot camp. When I tucked her in that night the words, “Thank you for organizing my room Mommy. I LOOOOOOOOOVE it!” , came from her 4-year-old mouth.

Who’d have ever thought such a little person would appreciate extreme organization to that degree?

Maybe all these neat-freak people are on to something. . . . )

I’ve also realized that I need quiet peaceful creativity just as much as they do. It’s feeding me again.

The dormant artist in me has woken after a good three years of hibernation – why, I don’t know.

I don’t know why I ever let it go dormant, and I don’t know why, of all times, now it is coming back to life – but inspiration abounds, and I’m honoring it.

“If you have two or three real passions,” says artist and writer Austin Kleon, “don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don’t discard. Keep all your passions in your life. . . . The thing is, you can cut off a couple passions and only focus on one, but after a while, you’ll start to feel phantom limb pain”.

I’ll keep writing and cooking. I’ll keep painting and doodling, and I’ll keep serving and sharing (still more to come on that. . . ) and I’ll trust that they’re all passions that were placed in me to make me whole, and somehow they’ll  bless the people around me too.

Thanks for continuing to hang out with sporadic, disorganized me.

Next up – an easy peasy white chicken chili (Crock Pot!) for busy winter days!

Christmas Butter Cookies

Christmas Butter CookiesEvery year we make these cookies.

Every year I think about posting them.

Every year we get so busy, I can’t possibly post another thing.

But, I confess – my recipe box is coming apart. It’s overflowing with wrinkled and stained folded papers, scraps with scribbles, and magazine tear-outs (from the old days before Pinterest and Clipix).

The box is such a mess that, whenever I shuffle through for my tried-and-true recipes, a layer of nagging fear creeps into each search. I worry I might not be able to find the exact recipe I’m looking for, that – by simple power of magical mystical mess – the one I want might have disappeared; and for that reason, I’m posting the recipe this year. So I can have it at the click of button, and you can too.

I don’t do anything to change this one, but I’m sure the people at Land O’Lakes don’t mind the free advertising.

It’s a solid recipe, and you’ll need plenty of their butter to pull it off well.

I apologize in advance for my haphazard frosting recipe. I don’t measure anything, really. I go by sight and taste, but I’ll give you loose guidelines, and hopefully that’s good enough.

And if we don’t touch base before then – have a very Merry Christmas, my friends!

Christmas Butter Cookies

Total Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 36 cookies

These cookies are delicious with or without frosting. If you do without frosting, decorate them by sprinkling with colorful sugars before you slide them into the oven. The recipe also doubles well. Just divide it into 6 parts before the refrigeration step.

Ingredients

    For the cookie dough
  • 1 Cup Land O' Lakes butter, softened. (I use room temp, and I always their salted butter for this recipe)
  • 1 Cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice (fresh squeezed or bottled both work)
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Teaspoon baking powder
  • For the icing:
  • 2- 5 Cups powdered sugar (depending on how much icing you want)
  • 1/2 Cup to 1 1/4 Cups heavy cream
  • 1-2 Tablespoons powdered egg white (if you have them)
  • OR 1/2 - 1 egg white (only use egg whites from pasturized eggs here - and do so at your own risk. We've never had a problem with anyone getting sick from an uncooked egg - but you know, it could happen.)
  • 1/2 - 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A dash of salt
  • Water for thinning, if necessary.

Directions

For the cookies:

Combine 1 cup softened butter, sugar and egg in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add orange juice and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Add flour and baking powder; beat at low speed until well mixed.

Divide dough into thirds. Shape each third into a ball; flatten slightly. Wrap each in plastic food wrap; refrigerate 2-3 hours or until firm.

Heat oven to 400°F.

Roll out dough, one-third at a time, on lightly floured surface (keeping remaining dough refrigerated), to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness(We like them better cut thicker, and cooked until edges are just barely browned). Cut with 3-inch cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 6-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let stand 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely.

For the frosting:

Add desired amount of powdered sugar to a medium bowl. (adjust amounts of next four ingredients according to how much powdered sugar you're using). Whisk in salt, vanilla, egg white, and about a quarter cup of heavy cream for every 1 cup of powdered sugar. Continue to thin with more cream or water until reaching the desired consistency. Cover bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap until ready to use.

Source

These cookies are delicious with or without frosting. If you do without frosting, decorate them by sprinkling with colorful sugars before you slide them into the oven. The recipe also doubles well. Just divide it into 6 parts before the refrigeration step. Cookies from Land O'Lakes, Best Ever Butter Cookies, loose frosting recipe from Sara|Home is Where The Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/12/22/christmas-butter-cookies/

Red Pear, Goat Cheese, and Candied Pecan Salad {with Raspberry Vinaigrette}

easy button pear salad 2ed 600We could also call this “The Best Ever ‘Easy Button’ Salad” too.

Because it is.

My friend Lara said to me once, “I totally pressed the Easy Button today and bought a rotisserie chicken for dinner”, and that got me thinking. . . . Yes. Easy button foods are good. Especially for this time of year.

So, we’re pressing the Easy Button here, because when we press it, it’s like a big breath of stressed air gushes out and relief replaces it.

I’m serious about this salad. Add it to your holiday dinner menu.

We’re buying the dressing. Some day, I’ll figure out to make my own raspberry vinaigrette – because homemade is healthier, yada yada yada. But right now, we’re using this → Because it’s awesome. End of story.

You can either buy or make your candied pecans, then you’re slicing and placing various delicious accoutrements – that’s it. Your guests will rave about the resulting salad-come-party-platter.

Northwest peeps? I envy you right now, because I used Red D’Anjou pears in this arrangement. They are both beautiful and delicious in such a softly sweet, unassuming, delicate way – and they are grown in your neck of the woods October-December (As I gather from my super extensive, one-click, internet research anyway).

So here it is. I strongly encourage you to add it to your menu.

Mwa!

Red Pear, Goat Cheese, and Candied Pecan Salad {with Raspberry Vinaigrette}

Rating: 51

Total Time: 12 minutes

Yield: 8-10 sides

This salad is a version of one that's found in so so many places, but it's so easy and beautiful. The D'Anjou pears are a highlight - as are the pecans and the dressing. You just can't go wrong. Above all - it's EASY! Hallelujah for easy. :-)

Ingredients

  • 1 or 2 Red D'Anjou pears
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • A large smattering of salad greens. I used 8-10 oz. organic spring salad mix
  • 1/2 to 1 cup candied pecans
  • 3 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • 6-8 oz raspberry vinaigrette (I used Marie's - because YUM, and EASY. Find it in the refrigerated dressing section in your grocery store).

Directions

First, prepare your pears by slicing them thinly and placing them in a medium sized bowl. Pour lemon juice and apple juice over them, then toss gently to coat each slice. This prevents browning and keeps them pretty.

Next, pile your greens on your serving platter. Drizzle with a little dressing. (Don't overdo it, you're going to do more later to make it all pretty!). Then sprinkle on most of the pecans and goat cheese, reserving a little of each for the final presentation. Arrange your pear slices over the top and drizzle dressing again. Top with the remaining goat cheese and nuts to make it beautiful, and lastly, top with some fresh groung black pepper. Voila. Beautiful, delicious salad.

Source

Sara|Home is Where The Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/12/19/red-pear-goat-cheese-and-candied-pecan-salad-with-raspberry-vinaigrette/

Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans

Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans

Let’s be quick today.

We’re talking about nuts. (*snicker*)

Candied pecans, to be exact.

We’re going to rip through this post, because I have an end goal – which might be the easiest fancy-pants, company-impressive salad on the planet, but we can’t get there unless we have candied pecans – homemade or otherwise.

And since these also make a delightful Christmas treat for hostesses, teachers, and helpers of all sorts, we’re making our own and wrapping them up in cute little jam jars with silvery tied ribbons after we’ve stashed a good measure for our salad selves.

Here’s the skinny: nuts, egg white, sugars, spice, a quick little bake in the oven, and tender loving separation of each little nut. Boom.

Coming next: what I like to call “Easy Button” Fancy Pants Salad. It’ll have your dinner guests raving. I know. Because I made it, and mine did.

Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 cups

This is a recipe adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen (so it's awesome, of course!) back in 2008. She, in turn, adapted it from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country. It's a good, solid, delightful recipe, and I only took the liberty of changing a few small things. These pecans are a perfect addition to salads, for snacking, or for a gourmet little gift for someone special.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (heaping) fresh ground black pepper (a fine grind is better here)
  • 1/8 teaspoon (heaping) cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups raw pecan halves (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 1 egg white, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Set aside.

Mix sugars and spices in a small bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white and water until frothy but not stiff.

Add nuts to egg white and toss to coat evenly.

Add sugar and spice mixture to nuts, and toss until evenly coated.

Spread sugared nuts on prepared cookie sheets in a single layer.

Bake 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I forgot to stir them last time and they turned out great anyway, so you probably don't need to fret this step).

Remove from the oven and separate the nuts as they cool. Once completely cool, you can store the nuts, tightly covered, in a bowl or tupperware. Separate any that are stuck together before you store them - and I store mine in the fridge to keep them a little more firm until I'm ready to use them, however refrigeration isn't required for storage.

Source

Adapted by Sara|Home is Where The Cookies Are, from Smittenkitchen, who adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country.

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/12/18/sweet-and-spicy-candied-pecans/

Driving Blindfolded

Simply say yes; Driving blindfolded

This is a never-posted oldie, but it was the start of the story that’s currently underway. I didn’t want to post in real-time, because what if it went nowhere? What if I failed? What if, what if, what if?? But I don’t care anymore. I’ll catch you up, and then we can watch it unravel together. We’re going back to June 2013 here. It’s similar to some of the posts I’ve published before, but for some reason I felt much more wary of posting this one in particular. Since it’s the true beginning I didn’t want to leave it out, so I do apologize if it feels repetitive. . . but so began the journey.

***

I felt it again last night.

It’s been sliding in and out of my days like a distant beacon, threatening to flicker out then sputtering back to life. Still reminding me.

It’s that feeling that plays around in my chest.

It settles in behind my sternum, pulses in a low-grade thrum that never really leaves, and it tells me there is something more for me to do.

What is it?  I know it’s something I’m meant to start living.

Be a mama, yes. Be a wife, yes, but be a mama and a wife and? And what?

I pull up the sheets of our unmade bed by the glow of the reading lamp.

The kids played there today. Made a fort out of all the pillows and the fleece blanket from the Little Guy’s lower bunk.

They played with loose hangars from the closet. Made a nest for their imaginary baby dinosaur.

Anxiety rises, again, about this feeling.

I have a nagging desire to do something to help someone.

But who?

I know there is a purpose for me but I can’t get to the part where I understand who it is or how I am meant to do it.

Always, I can find an excuse for why I “can’t”.

My family needs me. The timing isn’t right. I am afraid. We don’t have the proper disposable income. I have no way to make it happen. I’m not sure to whom I am supposed to reach out.

But I’m watching Lindsay spend a year in the Philippines, I’m watching Ann meet Anna in Africa, I’m watching Shannan adopt Robert – a young man in prison, I’m watching Sonja and Alex write a cookbook to fund aid for sex-trafficked girls in Cambodia, and I remember my own trips to Jamaica and the Philippines when I was a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood.

I remember the truth that was mine, that I belonged there – at least for the moment – doing what I was doing; and in this vortex of stories and memories, I know there is more that I am meant to do than lead this quiet, peaceful right-now life. There is something that belongs with this life that is mine.  It goes hand in hand with it and fits into it like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

I feel like I hear the whisper, “Who have you helped?”  – the same question George Ritchie heard as he was enveloped on the bright and pure white light in his moments of death.

What is it?

I pray in the yellow lamp light.

I pull up the duvet to meet the pillows and I smooth the top sheet.

Show me what it is.. . .

When I ask like this, I have learned, I’ll get an answer.

I’ll know it when it hits me.

As I fold back the layers of blankets and glance at the nightstand, looking for my novel, a different book catches my eye.

I haven’t opened it for months.

I feel it pulling, and I know this might be my nudge.

I climb into bed and grab the book.

I pull the satin bookmark. March 14th. That was the last day I read it. I page over to June 29th.

My heart thump-throbs a rhythm of anticipation inside my chest.

My hands sting with the mist of perspiration.

adrenaline.

I know enough to know this probably means something.

What will it say?

The instant fish accept

that they will not have arms

they grow fins.

- Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

I look back at June 28th:

Discernment is a process of letting go of what we are not.

                                    – Father Thomas Keating as quoted in The Book of Awakening

I feel bits of comprehension playing right at the tip of my understanding, but I can’t quite grasp it.

“. . . before we can be what we are meant to be, we must accept what we are not. This form of discernment asks us to let go of those grand fantasies that take us out of our nature, that make us work to be famous instead of loving, or perfect instead of compassionate.

Yet the instant we can accept what is not in our nature, rather than being distracted by all we think we could or should be, then all our inner resources are free to transform us into the particular self we are aching to be.”

All of the sudden, it hits me.

I need to stop holding you at arm’s length. Fooling myself too.

The me I let you see here is not all of who I am. “discernment is a process of letting go of who we are not. . . .”

Let’s be straightforward with each other. I know that you know I’m nothing special in the cooking department. I’m a home cook. I love to cook and experiment, and try new things, but I don’t have any amazing skill or exceptional creativity in that department. Not like thousands of other truly amazing cooks do.

In fact, I’m quite fond of nineteen nineties cuisine and I’m content to dig out my Grandma’s recipes circa 1956.

I’m a nobody in the foodie world. It’s ok. You seem to like me anyway.

So, I am not a culinary mastermind. What I am though, is a lover of people, a believer in Grace and Divine intervention, and a truth-seeker; and I believe, somehow, some way, bits of that are meant to be shared over time.

In that I believe I may grow fins.

I  feel like I am supposed to invite you along on this vague and nondescript ride with me –  on this scavenger hunt for the elusive jigsaw piece, this adventure to stop pretending that it’s all about food.

This seems a bit like driving a car blindfolded, finding my way only by someone speaking directions in my ear.

It’s blind faith, but I trust The One who’s breathing words into my heart.

So I’m holding my breath and clutching the wheel with his hand resting on my shoulder, telling me to take the next turn, even if I don’t know where it leads except into an intersection of unknowns. 

Come with me.

I’m going to share with you some of these things that have nothing to do with food and might not make much sense, but they will be more of me, and in being more me I’ve got a shot at fins.

And maybe someday we’ll click through old posts together and be able to point at today and say, “Wow. It all started there with all that weird talk about fish and fins.”

A Turkey Day Doodle

Thanksgiving doodle 2014

For you, Lovelies. A Thanksgiving day doodle for the kids to color while the bird roasts and you sweat your booty off in the kitchen. . . .

Oh, wait, I mean. . . for you to color with your kids while you all enjoy Hallmark quality family time around a cozy fireplace with hot chocolates in hand.

Or, you could print ‘em up, roll ‘em up, tie ‘em with a ribbon, and tuck them in with each place setting. Then you all can talk about what you’re thankful for. Examples included in the doodle:

  • Mr. Worm, “I’m thankful for hot dogs!!”
  • Mr. Turkey, “I’m thankful for steaks!”
  • Mr. Giraffe, “I’m thankful for polka dots!”

I’m thankful for cool Southern winter days, warm little fingers that still hold mine, squeezy husband hugs, shiny new friendships and those that are weathered and worn, fresh journeys, and answered prayers. And you! I’m thankful for you crazy peeps who keep coming around these parts for better or for worse. ♥♥♥

What are you thankful for??

My Make-Believe Thanksgiving Menu

make ahead mashed potatoespecan bars Roasted Carrot Salad Caramel Apple Pie Bars TRoasted Cauliflower and Asparagus Soup| Home is Where The Cookies AreTraditional Thanksgiving

I feel a little torn today because, really, I want to start catching you up on old stuff so I can start talking about new stuff and then in my perfect little world, we’d all be on the same page. But I also feel like Thanksgiving is in a few days.

Actually, Thanksgiving IS in a few days, and, well, I feel the duty to post something Thanksgiving-y.

And since our Thanksgiving menu remains the same every year, I figure maybe the thing to do right now is daydream with you all.

If I were the Thanksgiving Menu Curator this year, this is how I’d roll:

1. I would spatchcock a Turkey, Bon Appetit style, but I’d probably skip the anise seed and orange and stick with salt/garlic/rosemary/thyme/pepper/honey.

2. I’d saute some green beans with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then toss them with crispy prosciutto bits, julienned sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts.

3. I’d roast some cauliflower and carrots ahead of time too, and serve them at room temp over a bed of peppery greens, sprinkled with goat cheese – the whole shebang smattered with slow fried shallots.

4. I’d make my mashed potatoes the day before.

5. And the sweet potato casserole too.

6. I’d start today and make some homemade rolls. Then I’d freeze them and let them thaw out on the drive to the In-laws on Thursday.

7. I’d go traditional with a Libby’s pumpkin pie, but then I’d veer outside tradition and steer straight into easily handled cookie bars for the apple and pecan pie varieties of dessert. Oh! And Spuma. I’d offer this cranberry maple spuma because it’s my menu, and I can.

What about you?? What’s on your Thanksgiving menu? And if I snuck in one new thing this year, what would you suggest? Because I might just do it. . . . . ;-)

Thyme and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

Thyme and Cheddar Scallopped PotatoesCheesy. Potatoes.

That’s really all you need to know.

These are the kind of potatoes that say, I ♥ you, therefore I give you cheese.

Garlicky, herby, creamy cheese.

Oh, and carbs. Nothing says love like carbs.

I love you and I’m thankful for you: so I made you carb-y, cheesy, super thinly sliced potatoes baked to golden, crunchy-on-top perfection.

If you’re looking for a side for your Thanksgiving turkey, try them.

If you’re all set for Thanksgiving, and you’re looking for something to go with sliders and hot dogs for your next football party? Try them.

If you just want a different side to go with your meatloaf, because your tired of mashed potatoes. . . Yup. Try them.

If you’re a vegetarian and you don’t eat sliders or hot dogs or turkey or meatloaf and you want something to go with your. . . what do you eat? Beans? Yes. . . try them.

BTW – Tyler Florence? Thank you for the original recipe and your stylishly coiffed hair. Both have made life significantly more enjoyable.

Sooo.

Pretend there is a super apropos segue here – and not the kind the mall cops ride around on. I mean words that lead you nicely and smoothly into another subject.

Oh Look!

Here we are.

What were we talking about?

Oh yes. Change.

Life is changing, schedules are changing, activities are changing, and things will be changing here too.

Namely: topics.

I’ve realized that if I want to keep up here, then the subject matter is going to have to adjust along with me, so. . . weird?

We’ll still have food of course, but I chuckle when I think about how I’ve submitted myself to a total  food coup. It’s completely taken over.

In the beginning of all these cooking/blogging shenanigans, I imagined food would comprise about one-third of the content here, but obviously, I didn’t have a firm grip on my own obsessions. (It was also here that I discovered my weakness for chocolate. . .  to which I was somehow oblivious for my entire life up untill then.)

Food was central to our lives (well, it still pretty much is. . . ). It was happening all the time (still does), it’s what I loved (still do), and it was easy (enough) because I could “work” while the kiddos were away for their day at school (really, really, NOT so much anymore). As daily schedules would have it, my quiet cooking time has almost ceased to exist (as has interruption-free photography time). At the same time, old loves are re-emerging (art – with serious kid orientation), and new loves (the local homeless community) are meeting me where I’m at.

It’s no surprise, really –  I’ve talked about some of it before – I just never knew the W’s of it all (who, what, when, where. . .).

But it’s finally come together, and with a bit of a story to boot.

So I’ll share with you the parts I’m allowed to share. I’ll take you on the journey from the beginning – which was actually quite a while ago and a bit haphazard. It might come off a bit like a ride through a funky time warp (count this as your preemptive warning).

Our range of topics here will increase to equal Food+. Plus what, you say? Plus anything we want, I say.Thyme and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

The world blogosphere is our oyster.

From here on out, we will be about food and all the other things too.

I hope you’ll stick around.

And before I go – the recipe for the potatoes, lest I come off the wrong way – food will always remain!

Thyme and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 01 hour

Yield: 8 servings

Don't worry if you don't have a 10" cast iron skillet, or if you need to make a larger batch. You can easily double the recipe and bake it in a 9"x13" casserole dish. I'd be leaving out important information too, if I didn't admit that I started day dreaming about a more potent cheese in this recipe. . . Don't be afraid to try Gruyere - or maybe Fontinella. . . the options are nearly endless!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 sprigs of fresh Thyme
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • salt (to taste), and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • butter - enough to coat skillet
  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes (I used a mix of Russet and Yukon Gold. 1 medium Russet, and 3 smallish Yukon Golds)
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered and very thinly sliced.
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup (heaping!!) shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese

Directions

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a 10" cast-iron skillet with butter.

In a medium saucepan combine the cream, thyme, bay leaves, garlic cloves, and nutmeg.

Heat cream mixture slowly over medium-low heat. Whisk to combine, and taste when warm. Add desired salt and pepper. Keep hot, but do not simmer or boil, while slicing the potatoes.

Meanwhile, wash and peel the potatoes and slice them very thin (I used a Mandolin set at 1).

Place the sliced potatoes and thinly sliced onion in a large bowl. Remove and discard the solids from the cream mixture using a slotted spoon. Whisk in the cheddar cheese until melted and integrated well. Pour the cream and cheese mixture over the potatoes, stirring gently (and using clean hands if necessary), to make sure each potato slice gets a coating of the cream mixture. Add in 1/2 cup of the grated parmesan cheese and mix again. Spoon potato and cream mixture into the skillet. Arrange into an even layer. Pour remaining cream over the top, and sprinkle with the last 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake, covered with foil for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for about 20-25 more minutes, or until bubbly and top is golden brown.

Source

Sara|Home is Where the Cookies are, adapted from Tyler Florence

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/11/12/thyme-and-cheddar-scalloped-potatoes/