Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WIAW #7: pre-holiday parties!

It's time for another What I Ate Wednesday! Head on over to Jenn's blog to see what everyone else ate this week.

I had a few WIAW-worthy events this week. I made the most amazing recipe for brined pork chops with sauteed apples that I need to share very soon with a large audience, because all pork lovers need to make this recipe (stay tuned! I'll post it soon). I also strongly considered sharing my Monday, when I went to soup supper, bringing a Thai Pumpkin Soup, but due to several wrong turns and a water main break, I didn't make it. The soup was still good, however. I'll share the recipe soon and add the link. Clint had intended to make beer that day, despite my absence, but he didn't get around to it in time, which ended up being good because of the water main break. Now our water's back and at its regular pressure, but we have to boil it before drinking/using, which is somewhat annoying but not too bad. I set a few big pots boiling in the morning it's enough to use throughout the day. We're trying to hold off washing dishes til we get the all-clear- luckily, we did a load off just hours before the break, so it's really only the pots and pans we have to worry about, not cups/plates/silverware.

But anyway. I'm going to share with you my Sunday, which is probably the food-day I should share anyway. I don't have any recipes from Sunday, but I had some very exciting food.

First off, breakfast. I had the last of my portuguese muffins, with lemon curd (homemade, of course, although this batch didn't quite set- I used frozen egg yolks, which is maybe why), and my usual egg, coffee with skim milk, and water.

Then we headed down to Wethersfield, CT to the Colonial Dames' 2nd annual Thanksgiving Dinner.

These meal was not only delicious, but educational. My mom and I recently joined the Dames, and my mom attended this dinner last year and raaaved about it. She was right.

The dinner was based on a 1770s Thanksgiving Dinner. A girl in western CT wrote a letter to her cousin in NY and described who was there and what they ate. Our meal matched their menu as closely as possible.

One interesting tidbit was that Thanksgiving was a big deal in CT and MA, but not so much in NY, where Christmas was bigger, because of the Dutch heritage of NY. The Puritans, of course, eschewed Christmas, but they didn't avoid all feasty celebrations. Thanksgiving, as we all know, was a big Puritan thing, but they had been having Thanksgiving feasts long before they came to the New World. Apparently they could pretty much find any reason to have a Thanksgiving feast, thanking God for whatever they thought was truly awesome. The Wampanoags, the MA/RI residents they encountered in Plymouth (btw, if you're interested in this history, The Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick is really good), often held harvest feasts in late October/early November. And as we all know, when the Pilgrims had that first good harvest, they combined their tradition of giving thanks with a big feast and the Wampanoags' harvest festival tradition and had the big Thanksgiving that ours is loosely based on ("loosely" in terms of menu, since they didn't have cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or apple pie).

The Dutch, on the other hand, didn't really care about Thanksgiving, but Christmas was their thing. Maybe that's why everyone dreams of Christmas in New York City? (not me, NYC is too warm, they rarely have a white Christmas.)

Anyway, in my family, Thanksgiving's always been the big deal. Christmas is a big family celebration, and it's starting to be more important than it used to be, but when I was a kid (and definitely when my mom was little), Thanksgiving was THE holiday. Christmas was a little piddly thing. I always wondered about this, but I finally put two and two together at this dinner- my mom's side of the family is 100% old Yankee. My ancestors arrived in northern CT in the 1630s and stayed put. Of course we'd maintain the old Puritan tradition of the big Thanksgiving.

But anyway, you want to hear about the food!

The feast started off by visiting Mr and Mrs Silas Deane at his home in Wethersfield (not really them, of course, they both lived during the Revolutionary War). We were offered wine or Madeira and there was quite a selection of cheeses to sample. And that's my cabernet on the table. Clint had the Madeira (which was much sweeter/stronger than I remember).

 I did not intend to take this much, but the hard cheeses were tough to cut. This was for both Clint and me. There was a smoked gouda (on the bottom, you can just barely see it, it's the yellowish one), some sort of hard sheep's cheese, a reggiano kinda thing, and something else that was very salty and hard.
 We listened to a musical group playing a recorder and dulcimers, then they rang the bell and we were herded like sheep over to the barn.

I say "barn", but this is the kind of barn where you'd have an elegant wedding. It's quite lovely! Here's a little view.

The table was set very elegantly.

Here's the menu.
Pottage of cabbage, leeks and onions- with bacon. This didn't look too appetizing, but was really, really good. Probably because of the bacon.
In the girl's 1770s letter to her cousin, she mentioned chine of pork (essentially pork loin), venison and chicken pies, goose, turkey and this very fancy new vegetable that her uncle grew from seeds ordered from England, called celery. And you eat it raw! Apparently raw vegetables was a complete novelty at this time.

 Cabbage, leek and onion pottage- see how unappetizing it looks? Don't be fooled! I could have eaten 2 more helpings!

 The rest of the meal was served family style. Here was the turkey, all cut up for us- and they didn't give us any dark meat! boo.
 Creamed onions. I was not familiar was creamed onions, but it's basically like onions with cheese. Again, doesn't look too appetizing, but oh it was delicious!
 Here's my plate. Turkey, cranberry sauce (which the Pilgrims did not have, since they wouldn't have had enough sugar to make it palatable), butternut squash, VENISON PIE omg, pork and the onions in the middle. The venison pie was by far my favorite thing. And we got really lucky because Mom and I went in the the kitchen to ask the caterer what the delicious flavor in there was (some sort of herb- maybe tarragon?), and they had 3 chicken pies (which I did not sample, everyone agreed the venison pie was better so that was good enough for me) and 4 venison pies left. I took a venison pie home! It's been the most delicious leftovers.
Then we looked down the table... and saw a turkey. ooh we want the turkey down here! Well, it arrived, and friends, get excited. This was not a turkey, but a GOOSE! ooooh. I haven't had goose since I was a kid. Unfortunately, they forgot to give us a carving knife, so some resourceful fellow whipped out his swiss army knife and we all got to work. I really, really love goose. I think Clint and I might start trying to incorporate more goose into our diet- of course, Clint's spoiled because he and his dad used to hunt geese, so he's used to delicious Canada geese whereas I'm sure all we'll be able to get is farmed geese. I don't know the difference (yet). We may toy with the idea of hunting... or finding friends who hunt.
 Then it was time for dessert. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, and Indian pudding, all incredibly delicious- and that's unusual for me to say, since I am a complete pie snob. The pumpkin pie had the perfect flavor, and the apple pie had a crust worth eating! And I need to make Indian pudding more often.

 So that was fun.

Then we had to run home to go over to Nashoba (the winery where I work) for their Artisan Guild Holiday festival thing. We went to this a few years ago, when I was still working full time and we did really well buying Christmas gifts. It's a nice event, 16 artist/crafters set up tables in the wine shop and sell their goodies, and there are hors d'ouerves provided by the restaurant and free wine. It's $5 per person, and this year there was also a raffle (which I assume we did not win since no one has called us, sad!)

When we arrived, it was super busy, and our store when busy is very difficult to navigate. I was tempted to take all the "employees only" routes but I did not, since I felt I should behave as a customer, or else other customers would get the wrong idea and start using the same routes. The ticket takers explained the raffle: we had to visit all the booths and get our raffle cards stamped, and only if you collected all the stamps could you enter the raffle. It was about 6:45 by then (and it closed at 8) so we started in on the raffle ticket stamps right away. On the way, Clint grabbed an Imperial Stout and I got a glass of blueberry merlot. We also split a serving of apple crisp that was set up at a table near the back tasting bar.

 After we got all our stamps (which took a while, it was hard to get the attention of the person running each booth most of the time), we each got a slider and another glass of wine- cranberry apple this time, and I added bleu cheese and caramelized onions to my slider.

I also had a few pieces of smoked gouda, and a prosciutto-wrapped duck breast stuffed with gouda. These were served at the event I worked at on Thursday, and it was so annoying to not be able to grab one of the tiny delicacies off the plate. I decided then and there I never want to work for a caterer and be surrounded by food and not be able to taste it. I guess working at the tasting bar is kind of the same thing.

We did well on the shopping, we each got something for our moms and Clint got something for his sister. I can't tell what they are in case it spoils the surprise! But they are a combination of adorable, beautiful and incredibly clever/innovative.

By the time we got home, around 8:30, I was very ready for a big pot of tea and a good episode of the Walking Dead.

My good habits today were that unlike on real Thanksgiving, I was not stuffed to the gills. I was comfortably full (although the second piece of apple pie was not a good habit).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WIAW #6: Election Day

It's time for another What I Ate Wednesday! See Jenn's blog for the whole line-up of WIAW participants.

As you probably know, we just had the big presidential election. I'm normally pretty uninterested in politics, but I had definite ideas and opinions this time around, so I paid attention. As a result, yesterday had some stress eating.

Breakfast was normal. Actually I found some Portuguese muffins at Christmas Tree Shops the other day, so I had one. I got the cinnamon raisin, which aren't quite as good as plain, but maybe this brand isn't as good as I'm used to. Well, really what happened is that I saw some turkey plates and had to text a photo to my mom, to see if they were the same things she has (since there were some nice platters for super cheap) and she and I were texting back and forth while I was in the food section and I kept smelling the most delicious, vaguely familiar smell... eventually I realized it was raisin bread smell, and I turned around and saw these. Mine!
And I had my normal egg, coffee with skim milk and water. I'm rotating through jams lately, none of the ones we have open really excite me. I'm sure I have some wonderful jam in the fridge, it's just a matter of digging far enough back to find it.

Lunch was a mutsu apple with 2 laughing cow wedges. Just before lunch, we walked to the polls (1.3 miles each way), and when I got back I was too hungry to remember to photograph my lunch before I finished it! I also had this delicious popcorn, the stuff I got in my latest Foodie Penpals package, and it's so addicting!

Then I had Halloween candy. Sigh. Stress eating. To stop myself, I went upstairs and sewed for a few hours (can sewing instead of eating count as "falling into good habits"?). Before we went to Florida, we were in Halloween mode. Now things seem to be in full-on Christmas mode, which means I really need to restock my Christmas items in my etsy shop! Here are the new additions to my Christmas collection

Here's a Christmas tree skirt from last year I'm bringing back

Dinner was fish tacos (leftovers, actually). I took a bunch of food from my parents' house after the hurricane, since they'd lost power and nearly everything in their freezer thawed. We got 2lbs of cod from them, and we used half of it in fish tacos (the other half in fish kibbe, but I need to tweak the recipe before posting. I had to make some substitutions and hopefully they are why it was a little boring).

(confession- this photo was from the previous night's dinner, I didn't have the beer last night)
I really love the slaw I made- 1/2head of red cabbage, then a dressing of about 3 or 4T lime juice, 1/2T honey, about 1/2t cumin, a dash of chipotle powder and a pinch of sea salt. I meant to chop some cilantro and toss in, but I ended up just putting cilantro on the tacos themselves. So simple and tasty.

On Tuesdays I have choir rehearsal, and the whole rehearsal was spent checking numbers on Huffington Post. We got out 15 minutes early, since we were all a little tense, and then I came home for some peanut butter mochi (which, honestly, is a little weird. The pb filling is good, but the mochi tastes kind of like baked beans. In a weird way. I love baked beans, but it's a weird context.).

Then I decided it was time for a drink, so I had a bit of Northern Comfort. It didn't give me much comfort, I realized I need to dilute in something- apple cider is good. I would have had wine, but we didn't have any open bottles!

Then the election was more or less over, and I made the mistake of checking up on facebook. It started making me too mad, so I went to bed. :p

Monday, November 5, 2012

October Foodie Pen Pals Reveal!

3rd time's a charm, my friends! 
My first FPP package arrived late (thanks a bunch, USPS) and my second not at all. So I was very hopeful and excited for my third package, which arrived in a timely manner- only wouldn't you know, I left on the 22nd to go to Florida. I was able to open my package and gaze lovingly at the deliciousness inside before we left for the airport, but I had to wait til I got home to try any of it. Just one thing to make coming home from a trip less sad! (that, and the poor lonely tiny kitten waiting patiently for us!) I did consider bringing some of it as plane snacks, but I worried I wouldn't be able to fully enjoy it while dealing with plane annoyances, so I left everything at home.

My package came from Bethany at Accidental Intentions. I'd told her I love trying local goodies from places that aren't here, so I got some interesting Chicago treats!

On the left is a Chicago Mix flavored popcorn. I had no idea what this was. I opened it and peeked inside, and it's a bag of popcorn, half is orange cheese and half is caramel. It's a very simple concept, but really tasty! Pairing these two flavors reminds me of gjetost, which is one of my favorite cheeses- it's caramelized goat cheese, so it makes sense. I might need to track down more of this! (oh look! it's on amazon! And I was going to place an amazon order soon anyway, since I broke my French press carafe and need a new one...)

Next, Chicago Flats flatbread crackers. So yummy with cheese! This was my pre-workout snack tonight.

Assorted Tazo teas. I've already had all the chai teabags ;)

Milk and dark chocolates (ummm all gone)

2 single serving packets of Justin's Almond butter- the honey one escaped the photo. These are 2 flavors I haven't tried yet, since Wegman's doesn't have a huge selection of Justin's, just plain and maple and once upon a time, chocolate, but I haven't seen it lately. I haven't decided how to enjoy these yet. Many people seem to like eating them straight from the package... it might make a good post-workout snack later this week. Hmm.

So in the end, my 3rd month in FPP was a big success! I just had to delay the enjoying and the posting because of my trip and the hurricane, but these snacks were definitely worth the wait. Thank you, Bethany!!

How can you join in on the fun? Click here!
Here are the details:
On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

Disney recap, part 1 of 5

Oooh so much to say! I'm going to split this into a few parts so it doesn't take you hours to read each post. I photographed every single thing I ate (3 exceptions: 2 danishes that were the same as previous danishes, and my mom's sorbet, as mentioned in the previous post) and I can tell you about it. And if you decide you absolutely MUST attend Disney's Food & Wine Festival, well, you have another 10 days to do so! Hop on that plane and get down there!

First of all, I would like to say that, despite the massive amounts of food I ate, I am very pleased to have maintained my weightCan you believe it?! We walked probably close to 10 miles a day, and I am a very brisk walker so it was better exercise than I would have believed. To be honest, my normal walking is like a mile every other day, I don't exercise nearly as often as I should, but I intend to fix that little issue.

We left on Monday on a 6:05am flight. This is crazy, but this is what my parents do, and to make it easier, we all flew down together. It lets us have pretty much an entire day once we get there, even if we are zombies for part of it. We ate muffins at the airport for breakfast- edible, but not anything worth mentioning.

We checked in, our room wasn't ready (at 11:00am, of course), so we checked out bags and headed over to the Magic Kingdom. My parents are really into the new(ish) sorcerer game, so we signed up and did a few sorcerer things, then headed back to the hotel for our lunch reservations at Whispering Canyon.

We did not love Whispering Canyon. The menu used to be quite different (like 15 years ago, so I don't remember it at all), and the menu is fine, but not what we were looking for. Unfortunately, the atmosphere is really not what you want when you've been awake since 3am. It's a better place for kids- very loud and the staff is Disney-obnoxious (you know, in your face but not really rude about it).

Clint had Moosehead beer and I had a moonshine margarita.

 Apps were good- Indian fry bread on the top and delicious pulled pork spring rolls on the bottom.
 I had a salmon quesadilla. It was fine, not amazing. The tomato chutney was amazing, though.

In my opinion, Magic Kingdom is not a place to go to eat. It's a place to go because your kids want to meet Mickey, the princesses, go on rides, etc. Eating in Magic Kingdom occurs because your hungry. That being said, there is good food there, but it's not widespread. We spent our evening in MK working on the sorcerer game (didn't get very far, since one of the portals we needed to use was down). For dinner, Clint and I ate at Pecos Bill's in Frontierland, a place I remembered from years and years ago as a place to get a good burger. We didn't get burgers this time, Clint got a pulled pork sandwich and I got taco salad. The pork was pretty good, but the taco salad surprised me- it comes as a taco shell and meat. I saw other people picking up their orders, and the first one I thought the woman was just weird and asked for just meat. Then I saw another and another that was just shell and meat, and I was very confused- how on earth is that taco salad? Toppings bar! Add your own salad. So I piled on a ton of very fresh and good lettuce and tomatoes. In the end, it was pretty good, worth eating, but I'd get something else next time. (there was a pulled pork and steak special that look delicious in the picture but I saw someone that'd ordered it- I won't get that! the steak is very small and sad-looking)

 Dessert in the Magic Kingdom is a pineapple whip. Lately I prefer my pineapple whip in the form of a pineapple float. A pineapple whip is basically pineapple soft serve. You may know that I truly adore pineapple, but I have a mild allergy/sensitivity to it. I eat pineapple, but I pay for it almost immediately. However, I can have canned or fully cooked pineapple and pineapple juice! Hooray. Years ago, the pineapple whip was served with a piece of fresh pineapple. It's a nice touch, but I was relieved when they stopped doing that. Lately I prefer my pineapple whip in float form: pineapple juice with a good helping of pineapple whip on top. Around the time they started offering the floats (or maybe I only noticed it then), they also started having vanilla soft serve, and you can of course order a pineapple-vanilla swirl- amazing! For some reason, I didn't think you could get a swirl with a float, but this time the women misheard me and that's what she gave me. Perfect! I love the combination of vanilla and pineapple. You can see Clint's pineapple/vanilla whip in the background, he eats his differently than I do. One thing I love about these is they're hollow. I really got a kick out of the empty middle when I was a kid, and it's sort of stuck.

 Day 2 is posted here.

Day 3: Epcot.

On Day 2, I mentioned Key Lime wine, and how interesting it was (I later went back to buy a bottle). Well, on Day 3, we moseyed on over on to the F&W HQ pavilion to check it out. In past years, we haven't really paid attention to the HQ pavilion. Our first time at the F&W, we visited because Jamie Deen (Paula's son) was there signing books, but the line was impossible so we gave up. I think we knew they offered seminars and things, and we knew about the gift shop (obvs). This year we did a better job of checking it out. We took wine seminars. We visited the chocolate exhibit (history of Ghirardelli, complete with free samples and chocolate sculptures). We drank "drinking chocolate" at the chocolate exhibit- this is supposed to be some amazing kind of hot chocolate, but honestly it's about the same as the hot chocolate I normally drink, which is made from dissolving chocolate shavings in scalded milk. (Still tasty, though!)

 We hung out in the Chase Cardmember lounge (clean bathrooms with no lines and free soft drinks!). And we took more seminars.

Our first seminar was by a rep from Kim Crawford Winery in Marlborough, New Zealand. It was a good seminar, we learned about the winery and their wines and watched video clips of the head winemaker talking about the wine we were tasting (btw, his "tastes" of wine were much more generous than ours!). We tried their sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir, which were all pretty good. I took notes, of course (but they're still packed somewhere!)

After that, we visited the wine shop and found WINE JUICE BOXES. Oh my.

 They were from the Florida Orange Grove Winery, the place that made the key lime wine and the sangria I'd tried the day before. Mom and I split the mango wine juice box, which was the one we hadn't already tried. It was pretty good. Very sweet, like mango is, and like the key lime wine, it was really hard to tell it was 10% alcohol. Danger!
Then lunch at Coral Reef in The Living Seas pavilion. This is mom's favorite restaurant. I think it's fine, definitely not a favorite. I like seafood but I don't find their menu items all that interesting, it's stuff I can get anywhere. I had lobster bisque and the fish tostadas.
 Clint had miso glazed salmon.

 Mom had grilled mahi mahi with coconut cilantro rice and shrimp (citrus sauce on the side)
 Dad had trout with some sort of bean/tomato concoction.

 For dinner, we wandered around the F&W, of course! First stop, Swedish Meatballs from Scandinavia!
 Then a mung bean pancake with shrimp and raspberry wine from South Korea. The pancake was incredibly salty- we ate about half and tossed the rest :(
 Cheese fondue from Cheese- yes, there is a booth called "Cheese". This was pretty good. I ate it all myself :)
 Beer flight!! This was Flight #1 from the Brewer's Collection. Clockwise from top left: Hoevels, Radeberger Pilsner, Schoeffenhofer Grapefruit, Berliner Kindl Dark. 1: didn't love, 2: ok, 3: OMG AMAZING, 4: not bad.
 Yes, I love my girly, fruity beers. The grapefruit was kind of like a Shandy, which is half beer and half lemonade, only with grapefruit. Later on I had their regular hefeweizen, which was also very delicious.

Then we decided we were tired, and wanted to go back to the hotel. We took the monorail back to Magic Kingdom, then the boat to the hotel. We rested. My parents decided to go to the pool, and Clint and I decided to return to Epcot. It was "Extra Magic Hours", which means Epcot was open late for Disney resort guests- til midnight instead of 9pm. So we had the brilliant idea of going back for more food. The only problem with this is the F&W isn't actually open for extra magic hours. Nor are a lot of the stores and sights to see in the countries, it's pretty much just the rides in future world, which we'd done earlier that day, that are open. Huge fail. We took the bus (which took about 1.5hrs), walked through Future World to the World Showcase, walked pretty much around the world without finding anything to do, then finally got a ham sandwich in France and a tiny glass of Beaujolais.
We were kind of tired and annoyed by the time we got back to the room. Day 4 would be better!