Sunday, January 3, 2010


It's back-to-work time. Austerity is the coin of the realm after a two month stretch of wretched excess where we all ate and drank far beyond what we might normally think of as prudent. Let me tell you Trader Joe's is the most insidious place to be during the holidays. You find yourself buying things you'd never give serious consideration to in a supermarket such as Candy Cane Oreos. I ate two boxes of those wickedly tasty temptations (at lunch and after dinner). At the checkout counter they were tempting buyers with one-pound cans of chocolate-nut toffee for only $7.98 for the tin. I felt like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove trying to control his urge not to do the Nazi salute, every time I passed through the check-out line. I actually picked up packages of Pumpkin Pancake Mix, Pannetone, Chocolate Peppermint Bark, and fortunately, put them back on their shelves. Now that I have a large and well-organized kitchen, it begs to be cooked in. I've baked cookies, pies, clafoutis, bread, roasted chickens, braised short ribs and slow-cooked chuck roasts, made pot-pies and shepherd's pies from the leftovers. The other night I was home alone with Beau snoring quietly in his dining room daybed, when it occurred to me that had leftover sauce from a slow-cooker recipe I was testing for my blog, and I had frozen gnocchi that I made from another book I was reviewing. Why not put them together, for a quiet little dinner by myself, I reasoned. In as much time as it took to boil water, I had a lovely plate of those pillowy miracles that are a cross between a dumpling and pasta. Sauced and dusted with Parmesan, I oohed and aahed in the silence of my dining room.

Earlier in the week, I had Kent and Alan over for dinner. We've been getting together to brainstorm ideas on goals for the new year, projects that have been percolating in our heads, and either share them over a drink and dinner out, or at each other's homes. I had a leftover leg of lamb, which I turned into shepherd's pie (thanks for the suggestion, Susan Wyler). I ground the lamb, made a sauce with a base of the saved lamb juices, sauteed the meat with onions and garlic, added a little red wine and reduced the pan juices, sprinkled it with flour, and added some chicken broth. I had some edamame and white corn and some peas in the freezer and added these. Some thyme, salt and pepper made for a nicely thickened stew to which I added some cooked carrots and leeks. I realized too late that I didn't have quite enough potatoes for the top and found some parsnips which I boiled with the potatoes. I then mashed them with a little milk and butter and a quarter teaspoon of smoked paprika, which I slathered on top of my casserole, but I still lacked enough potatoes. I cooled it down, and as I was saving it for company, I froze it. About a month later Kent and Alan were over for dinner and I mashed some more potatoes and put it on top of the defrosted pie, and added a final dusting of grated Comte cheese (akin to Gruyere) and Parmesan. We didn't get as much accomplished in our idea session as perhaps we planned because the boys were knee-deep in shepherd's pie. I polished it off for diner the next night and lunch two days later. Talk about stretching your food dollar!

Tuesday before New Year's I was startled to see huge snowflakes falling on the ground, and I got the idea to take pictures a little late in the day, and have already posted some of them. Just before going to bed, I looked outside my balcony at the Cedar tree and the huge Holly bush which were heavy with snow and took these photos--they obviously look black and white. It was 11:30 PM. Rain swept all the snow away the next day. But for a few hours, it looked magical outside. This didn't even have time to turn dark brown and slushy.

Cooper, my pet squirrel who lives in the Cedar tree in my backyard, dropped by for a visit two days ago. He's friendly little guy and handsome. He is now taking peanuts from my hand and races away to enjoy them. I had a nearly empty jar of Skippy chunky peanut butter and decided to see if Cooper would lick the jar clean. For the next hour, Cooper kept me mesmerized with his antics to get every last lick out of that jar. At one point, I thought I would have to rescue him for it appeared that he was stuck in the jar, but he managed to back out of it. And when two friends showed up to lay claim to the jar, Cooper fiercely chased them all around the backyard, successfully fending off any potential Skippy invaders. I wish my zoom lens could have captured him more closely than I did.
Last night I went to my last party of the holiday season. My buddy Mike Campbell threw a potluck party for his friends. I brought a meatloaf I made from some ground chicken thighs I saw at the New Season's market. I was intrigued by this some months ago and made a pretty terrific meatloaf from it. I decided it would make a good potluck item for it is easy to carry, doesn't require any reheating, and can feed a lot of people. I had some sausage meat on hand and added that to the chicken with sauteed red pepper and red onion, panko crumbs, egg, Parmesan, some leftover tomato sauce, thyme, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and one hour later, I had this gorgeously caramelized meatloaf (the secret is to use a shallow roasting pan for a beautiful crust). Now I should have taken a photo of it.

Back at work tomorrow as I have a new project to work on. Edible, a network of regional magazines that celebrate locavore culture, is my latest project from Wiley. This book combines the stories of local food heroes with gorgeous color photos and recipes. Two recipes grabbed me immediately: Kohlrabi with Bacon and Blueberry Cornbread. Should be a fun project.

Carpe diem, 2010!


  1. Be honest with me. How much do you weigh after ThanksMas?????

  2. I gained four pounds. I'll take it off. Skinny bitch.