Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fall 2013 Brooklyn Eats

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still.
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples; I am drowsing off.
(Robert Frost, "After Apple Picking")

I'm really behind on updates. Since I got married over a year and a half ago and moved to Brooklyn, around the end of each season I've posted new recipes and nearby restaurants I've tried, apart from special occasions or holidays. I wanted to post this in early December, but the holidays came with a vengeance and there just weren't enough hours in the day.

There are now fewer than 3 days left until 2014, and I truly cannot wait until 2013 is over and done with. It's been a rough year, and I'm looking forward to bigger and better things to come.

A Smoothie and Baked Goods

In September, I went apple picking at Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard in North Salem, NY with my husband, sister, nephew, niece, puppy niece, and mother. With the apples we came home with, I made several days of Harley Pasternak's Breakfast Smoothie, which was like healthy apple pie in a glass.

Some of the baked goods I made included Liv Life's Whole Grain Pumpkin Banana Nut Bread and The Baker Chick's Soft Frosted Pumpkin Spice Cookies.

Peter scampering around the apple orchard
Harley Pasternak apple pie breakfast smoothie
Whole grain pumpkin banana nut bread
Soft frosted pumpkin spice cookies

Soups and a Stew

This past autumn, I tried a few new soup recipes: Williams-Sonoma's Mexican Lime Soup with Chicken; Oh She Glows' Spiced Red Lentil, Tomato, and Kale Soup (this was so delicious, I made it a couple of times and plan to make it again soon!); and Scaling Back's Red Lentil Coconut Soup.

I also made Hip Foodie Mom's Kimchi Jjigae, or Korean kimchi stew -- an adaptation of the Kimchi Chronicles recipe -- for the first time.
Mexican lime soup with chicken
Spiced red lentil, tomato, and kale soup

Red lentil coconut soup
Korean kimchi jjigae with chicken

Salad, Dip, Burgers, and Arroz con Pollo

The following dishes didn't fit into neat categories: MyRecipes' Greek Salad (made without olives because I didn't have any); Everyday Food's Creamy Avocado Dip; What's Gaby Cooking's Cheddar JalapeƱo Chicken Burgers with Guacamole; and Women's Health's Healthy Arroz con Pollo.

Greek salad
Creamy avocado dip
Cheddar jalapeƱo chicken burgers with guacamole
Healthy arroz con pollo

Shrimp and Salmon

I had frozen shrimp that I wanted to use up, so I made a lighter Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Grits. I also still have lots of herbes de Provence (which I first used in my freezer cooking spaghetti sauce), so I tried A Less Processed Life's Baked Herbes de Provence Salmon.

Lemon-garlic shrimp and grits
Baked herbes de Provence salmon

Pasta and Italian

I try to find a balance between embracing healthier recipes and sticking with the more indulgent, comforting ones. One of the lower-fat recipes I tried was Martha Stewart's Lighter Three-Cheese Mac. I made Eat, Live, Run's Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells a little lighter by using some part-skim cheeses, and Chef Michael Symon's Angel Hair with Olive Oil, Garlic and Chili Flake was already very simple.

Finally, Sam baked Ellie Krieger's Chicken Parmesan to eat along with whole wheat spaghetti.

Lighter three-cheese mac
Cheesy spinach stuffed shells
Angel hair with olive oil, garlic, and chili flake
Baked chicken Parmesan

Fall Meals from Local Restaurants

The list below is of local restaurants we tried for the first time this autumn.

Barbeque: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Morgan's BBQ
British/Fish & Chips: ChipShop
Caribbean/Latin American: Ideya
Chocolate: Cocoa Bar
Italian: Peperoncino
Japanese/Sushi: Kami Asian Restaurant, Yamato
Mediterranean/Falafel: Chick P
Thai: Olieng
Turkish/Mediterranean: Istanbul Park

Next up, I'll share some Christmas-related activities and details. Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Early and Actual Thanksgiving Celebrations

Like hot food
I love you

like warm
bread & cold

cuts, butter

or, days later, after

when I want
whatever's left

The poem above, "Ragtime" by Kevin Young, is featured in the MTA's Poetry in Motion series, so if you take the subway in NYC, you've probably seen it. I liked it because it mentions Thanksgiving leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, this happened a week ago...

If a sandwich can be pretty, I think this one is!

Not quite as epic as last year's Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich...

...because this year, I sent people home with almost all the leftovers. Sam and I celebrated Thanksgiving twice this month, with both sides of our family: On the Saturday before Thanksgiving (November 23), my family came over to our place in Brooklyn for a pre-official holiday dinner, and on Thanksgiving morning (November 28) we flew to Michigan to spend the holiday with Sam's family.

I was in charge of my family's Thanksgiving dinner 2 years ago, and last year was my first married Thanksgiving, but this was the first time we hosted a major holiday's meal in our tiny apartment. Instead of cooking a whole turkey, I opted to roast 2 turkey breasts, and made as many dishes as possible in advance. I asked my father to bring stuffing, and my family also brought the following: wine and sparkling cider, and roasted Brussels sprouts and creamed spinach from Whole Foods to round out the meal. As usual, I'm posting the menu and photos -- from our early Thanksgiving dinner, as well as our time in Michigan -- below. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving Menu

Apple, Brie, Pecan, and Honey Crostini

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Apple Pan Gravy
Cranberry-Ginger Relish
Kim Classic Stuffing
Sweet Potato Casserole
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Creamed Spinach
Savory Monkey Bread

Pumpkin Pie with Oreo Crust

Apple Cider Sangria
2010 Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon
Sparkling Cider

Setting the Scene

The decor was simple and kid-friendly, with a bouquet of orange tulips, lilies, safflowers, red berries, and a tiny pumpkin from FreshDirect, and a paper Thanksgiving activity tablecloth from Target. I also bought autumnal napkins from Target -- some of which I folded into a little pocket to hold flatware -- a pack of crayons, and Thanksgiving Blend coffee from Starbucks.

I think this was the 3rd time I used my gravy boat
I loved this little pumpkin-y bouquet
My nephew Peter had fun coloring and writing on this tablecloth before dinner
Coffee, and my to-do list

Apple, Brie, Pecan, and Honey Crostini

The apple and brie slices in my leftovers sandwich were left over from the pre-dinner appetizers I pinned from The Craving Chronicles via slices of honeycrisp apples and brie on crostini, topped with chopped pecans and drizzled with honey.

Apple and brie crostini, with mini cookies and apple cider sangria in background

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Apple Pan Gravy

Rachael Ray's Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy recipe is 5-star rated and currently has 270 reviews, so I decided to try it. I bought 2 boneless skin-on turkey breasts from FreshDirect, spread an herb paste under the skin, and basted with herb butter. If you have a small group for Thanksgiving, I would definitely recommend this method, which turned out well and cooked in a little over an hour. For my family though, I think I'll have to stick to a whole turkey in the future; not just for the size, but for the additional cuts, and to be able to cook my family's stuffing inside.

My 1st time carving, which I usually leave to someone else

I made gravy from the pan drippings, adding apple cider, Calvados (French apple brandy), and seasoning with salt and pepper. It was really tasty and made me very happy.

This was the 1st time using my roasting pan

Cranberry-Ginger Relish

Last year I experimented with a new cranberry relish recipe (which I wrote about in "Thanks and Giving"). This year, I tried yet another Martha Stewart cranberry recipe -- Cranberry-Ginger Relish -- which was really good, the fresh-grated ginger adding warmth and depth.

Sweet Potato Casserole

I found a lighter side dish recipe for the traditional butter-and-sugar-laden sweet potato casserole on It consisted of just mashed sweet potatoes, crushed pineapples and a touch of agave nectar for sweetness, and a topping of mini marshmallows and chopped pecans. My 15-month-old niece Ellie particularly enjoyed these sweet potatoes, so I was glad it was healthier.

Savory Monkey Bread

I saw this Food Network Blog post a few weeks before Thanksgiving: "How to Make Savory Monkey Bread." What a great idea! I used biscuit dough -- rolled into balls, topped with shredded cheddar, chopped chives, paprika, and rosemary, and drizzled with olive oil -- and baked the savory monkey bread in a tube pan. Next time, I'll keep better track of it in the oven!

Pumpkin Pie with Oreo Crust

I had been waiting to make this New York Times Pumpkin Pie with an Oreo Crust for several weeks, and it was worth the wait. I didn't want to buy pumpkin pie spice, so I mixed up the exact amount of my own, by halving the recipe below.

To make a simple pumpkin pie spice, mix all of the following ingredients together:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.

To make the Oreo crust, I crushed 2 dozen Oreos, added melted butter, and pressed the mixture into a pie dish before baking. To make the pumpkin pie filling extra pumpkin-y, I followed a tip from Something Swanky and added pumpkin spice creamer in place of milk or cream -- yum indeed.

I love a sweet whipped cream topping on a delicious slice of pie

Apple Cider Sangria

I made How Sweet It Is' Apple Cider Sangria with Pinot Grigio, apple cider, Calvados (the recipe included ginger brandy, but I already had apple brandy on hand for my gravy), club soda, and chopped honeycrisp apples and bosc pears. I mixed everything except the club soda together the night before, to allow the ingredients to come together, the fruit to absorb the liquids, and to save some time.

A Little of Everything

Here's a photo of my plate...

And here's a collage of a blurry selfie with Peter and Ellie -- I was trying to steady the camera, but Peter grabbed a hold of it -- and some of Peter's coloring and writing on the tablecloth...

Peter was thankful for Mom, Dad, Emma, Ellie, and a book

Thanksgiving in Michigan

By now you're probably overloaded with photos, but I have a few more to share. We arrived in Michigan a little before noon on Thanksgiving Day, and flew back on Saturday morning. It was a short trip, but it was great to spend time with the in-laws, and have fun with our nephews Isaiah and Micah, and niece Christina!

Thanksgiving dinner in Michigan

After dinner, we went to watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. On Friday, Grace's family came over, and then we went to Franklin Cider Mill to enjoy hot apple cider donuts and cold apple cider.

Baby Micah is getting so big! / Camera-shy Christina
Brr... Snow on the tables at Franklin Cider Mill / Sam and Isaiah

We left Michigan so early on Saturday that we were back in our apartment in Brooklyn by 8 o'clock in the morning. Since Thanksgiving was so late this year, today is already December 1, and that means there are only 24 days left until Christmas! We just finished decorating our Christmas tree. Here's a photo I just posted on Instagram...

We decided to forgo the tree topper for now, and just threw a hat on top!