Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm Thankful for Sunday Mornings and Patient People

I hope this blog post finds you all stuffed with Thanksgiving cheer (and food!) and fully in the spirit of the holidays. I know my family has already booked our tickets to see The Nutcracker ballet (a yearly tradition,) scheduled our Christmas party and sent out invitation, and will be getting our Christmas tree today to decorate. This time of year is also a time in my family to reflect on the year and prepare for the next one. I am surprisingly proud of myself sometimes by being able to stop and be thankful for everything that I have been blessed with. Sure, the days are long. And of course, some of them don't go the way I would prefer. But everyday is a beautiful day because I have my health and the health of my family and friends. I have the opportunity to get an education and pursue my dreams. I have the love and support of my family, my biggest cheerleaders. And I have a well instilled work ethic and sense of self that helps me be successful everyday. Thanksgiving Thursday especially was an opportunity for my family and I to reflect on all the wonders for which we are thankful. Here are just a few things we shared with each other as we enjoyed our Thanksgiving day feast and festivities.

1. Having so many things that I am passionate about, like dancing, cooking, healthy living, and promoting campus involvement, just to name a few.
2. Perfecting the art of Euchre, a card game almost my entire plays now, and sometimes on a rare occasion being able to beat my dad.
3. As mentioned above, the health of my family and friends, and more specifically, the fact that the only pain in my butt is the fact that I am blind as a bat - it could be so much worse.
4. Curling up with a good book next to one of our fireplaces with a mug of tea and blanket. And how it is now the season for such relaxation techniques.
5. Starting our Christmas cookie baking... and listening to Christmas music whilst mixing and measuring.
6. Having the opportunity (and time!) to catch up with old friends while I am home and rekindling the connections that weaken over time and distance.
7. Planning and prepping for my family's upcoming Christmas party - and using this excuse to devour even more cookbooks and blogs for recipes and decorating ideas.
8. Having fresh cranberries available for EVERYTHING, from muffins and quick breads, to marinades, chutneys, and pan sauces. I love cranberries!
9. My mom's incredibly well stocked kitchen. And her willingness to allow me to hog it every time I come home. Enough said.
10. Starting classes again tomorrow after a five day break. Call me crazy but I am so fortunate to be able to better myself to make my dreams a reality. (I will work to keep this in mind when I get up for class tomorrow morning...)

I hope you all take a moment to also be thankful for all you have in your lives as well. 'Tis the season to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!

Here is our Thanksgiving Day's feast, filled with recipes passed down from my grandma to me, and will eventually be passed down to my children. They are wholesome, unpretentious, country, and tried-and-true. We make the same great dishes every year, and always make too much, but what I love most is spending two days in my grandma's kitchen dicing vegetables, rolling pie crust, and catching up on all that we missed since we saw each other last. I really do feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be so close to my grandparents and being welcomed into their home, not the typical dusty stale place that the media has characterized grandma houses as countrywide. Mommaw's and Boppaw's is cozy, warm, and relaxing, and I not-so-jokingly refer to it as my vacation home in the country. They live right on the river, so there is even a nice water feature and sport in the summertime. When I do find the time and get to indulge is such luxuries as visiting them, I am always taken aback by how splendidly wonderful it is out there.

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving! We started our prep work for the actual dinner on Wednesday, in addition to finishing all of the desserts (four of them this year (!!!) more on those later) and two appetizers. Mommaw and I have very similar opinions of kitchen work, in that if you can get the desserts and apps done ahead of time, in addition to any tedious prep work like chopping or raising, then the day of will be smooth sailing. That is the attitude we have taken with every single Thanksgiving I can remember and it hasn't steered us wrong yet. Come to think of it, Mommaw and I have been preparing Thanksgiving dinner together since before I can remember. Ever as a little girl I would go out to her house early Wednesday and at least stand on a chair and dutifully mix everything she put in front of me. Now that I can be trusted with a big girl knife, I feel like I am a little more help to her now. Regardless, we always pull it together beautifully and I cherish every moment with her.

And here are all the pictures! My sister indulged me by taking these photographs - I always feel so spoiled when she takes pictures of my food, and I tend to hog her skills slightly ("Take a picture of this! And now of this, I just added an ingredient! Wait, let me stir it... ok, now shoot.") Enjoy these, they really turned out fabulously!

Look at our beautiful table!

.... from another point of view.

Shrimp cocktail (for the men among us who need their strength whilst frying our turkey.)

Beer bread to accompany our spinach artichoke dip.

Sparkling cider

Apple, pumpkin, and "happy" pie (pecan spiced with Woodford Reserve bourbon.)

Cranberry chutney (with walnuts, apple, oranges, allspice, and golden raisins.)

Balsamic and apricot glazed Brussels sprouts with bacon and red onion.

Our first of two turkeys - oven roasted (I got to carve this one!)

Turkey, broccoli cheese casserole (one of my favorites!) and dressing (since we don't stuff our turkey.)

Traditional dressing and broccoli cheese casserole.

Our second turkey - bonedust rubbed and deep fried.

Buttermilk rosemary smashed potatoes

Pillowy soft rolls

My end of the table.

A homemade centerpiece, courtesy of Mommaw's ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Made of baby gourds, pumpkins (hollowed out and doubling as candlestick holders), acorns and hedgeapples from the woods.

Roasted Turkey

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Our completed Thanksgiving Day dinner table.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Peach&Kiwi's Ingredient Wish List

So I have list list you see. A list of ingredients that I depirately want to work with but have either not come across in a grocery store, are not affordable enough for this college student to indulge in (as is usually the case), or I have no idea how to work with such an ingredient. But everyone has a list like this right? Books they want to read, movies they want to see, places they want to go, restaurants they want to try (well, as least I have a restaurant wish list.) Here are a list of ingredients I want to use!

Hibiscus Flowers (for syrup)
Forbidden Rice
Buddha Hand (for Citron Vodka)
Candy Cap Mushrooms
Celery Root
Prickly Pear
Kiwi Berries (different than actual kiwi - event cuter if you can imagine!)
Agave Nectar (it's sitting in my cabinet currently, just need a great way to use it! Maybe for some homemade granola?)
Black Summer Truffles (or black truffle oil)
Lavender (I have experimented some already with fresh lavender in scones and lemonade, but more is needed!)
Papaya Seeds
Pork Belly
Japanese 7 Spice (comprised of ground red chili pepper, ground sansho (more hot peppers), black sesame seeds, dried orange peel, hemp seed, white sesame seeds, ground ginger, and nori)
Passion Fruit

And the list goes on and on. Hopefully I can ask for a few of these for Christmas and there will be some delicious dishes to photograph and blog about during the holiday break, which is quickly approaching! I hope you all have a fabulously delicious and safe Thanksgiving surrounded by your closest family and friends, and be on the lookout later on this week to see how we do Thanksgiving dinner!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

'Tis the Season for Cinnamon

Rolls that is! I have been wanting to make cinnamon rolls for WEEKS now, allured by the sugary stickiness of melted brown sugar and cinnamon, the tender flake of the homemade yeast dough, and the fun that is eating them layer by layer as you pull them apart, leaving you with an almost too heavenly to be true center. But I was faced with the same conundrum I am always faced with when it comes to making a batch of something I have been craving... if I make it, I will eat it. Hence why I am always trying to pawn baked goods, remains of hearty casseroles, or slices of desserts off on people, so that they do not sit in my refrigerator and mock me every time I reach in there for something a little higher on the health scale, such as an apple or some hummus. Fortunately for me, I had an apartment full of willing and able eaters this past Tuesday night. They claim they came to watch the UK basketball game, but I suspect the promise of freshly baked Cinnamon Rolls topped with Cream Cheese Icing might have had something to do with their wanting to visit as well.

If tempting my friends with sugary treats is what it takes to 
1. finally bake something I have been craving for weeks, 
2. get my girlfriends to come over to visit when we are all so busy we can't seem to find the time, and 
3. saves me from having to flaunt my gross ignorance of basketball (I really am attending the wrong school, to LOVE football and not know a darn thing about basketball) then so be it! 

I topped each person's cinnamon roll with the cream cheese icing individually, so that it would melt down into the roll  perfectly as it was being eaten. Here's mine!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Soups are the Perfect Re-purposers!

Everyone knows that one of the easiest ways to use up the odds and ends left in your refrigerator after a long week of cooking and creating is to dump it all in big pot and let it simmer until the flavors mellow together and turn into something perfectly acceptable for dinner.

The vegetable soup featured here is a gift from Mommaw from this past weekend's visit. I also acquired a loaf of banana bread and some pumpkin cupcakes on this trip... I'm just a bit spoiled.

Mommaw makes vegetable soup just the way I like it - with EVERY vegetable imaginable in it. This one featured peas, black beans, kidney beans, carrots, celery, onion, cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, corn, and diced flank steak, and then I stirred in some leftover chipotle chili roasted potatoes from last night. I paired all those wonderful vegetables and savory broth with some cornbread and I was a happy camper, especially on this cold, dreary day of rain and wind. Maybe a cup of tea is now in order and I will settle down to finish this business paper.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Re-purposing Leftovers

This weekend was ridiculously busy, one of the busiest ones I've had since classes started in the fall. Warm weather meant squeezing in all my favorite outdoor activities, like walks downtown and football games, before it gets too cold. So needless to say, some very basic weekly duties such as grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning, fell by the wayside a bit. Call me a college kid, but I am sure rolling with it, cleaning little bits here and there, and using whatever is in the fridge so make a meal. 

So tonight was my first experiment with "creating meals on the fly" was to use up some french style steamed green beans, steamed edamame, and potatoes. By leaning on a few pantry staples I ended up coming up with a really satisfying and healthy dinner that gave me leftovers (making them leftovers of leftovers?) for tomorrow!

Plus it's almost Thanksgiving break (thank goodness!!!!) so this is a great way for me to use up what I have on reserve. Yeah, that sounds much better than "I was too lazy and tired to go to the store."

Pictured is a green been, edamame, tomato, and roasted onion stew, paired with chipotle chili scented potatoes and cornbread. And the last piece of pumpkin pie for dessert (I beat my roomies to it!) Happy leftover-ing!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What the Heck are my Favorite Foods Anyway?

A close friend of mine asked me the other day "if you had all the time and the money in the world, what would you cook?" My eyes just got really wide as I considered my options... and my mind went blank for a second or two. No response to this question could possibly sum up what I wanted to say. Granted, I had been asked this question before, but for some reason this time I wanted to give a good answer, the absolute truth answer. I wanted to take the time to actually figure out what my favorite foods were to cook. And thus began a trail of thoughts that have now spilled out onto a blog post.

Millions of recipes soon flooded my head when I was asked this question, along with snippits of fond memories I have collected over the years: of dog-eared cookbooks and standing at the counter with Mommaw;age three with flour all over my hands, spilling more down the front of me than I had in the bowl; the first time I grilled pizza on the grill and thought (and still do think) it's the best thing since sliced bread; the fact that Boppaw is the only one in our family that can make peanut brittle the "right" way... Hundreds of memories are so strongly attached to my fond connection with food. So how can I possibly pick my favorites?

But why separate the memories from the foods? That's usually what makes them so delicious! So I started honing in my favorite food memories and low-and-behold my favorite foods were nestled in there as well. Here are just a few:

  • Grilling whole wheat pizza dough with my Dad, brushing it with homemade garlic oil and spooning on fresh chunky tomato sauce, piling on toppings, and topping it all with fresh buffalo mozzarella.
  • Every dish of my family's Thanksgiving dinner (which Mommaw and I have made together for as long as I can remember) and eating Pumpkin Pie for breakfast. (see here for more on this memory.)
  • The first time I ever encountered an avocado: my dad ordered a salad with avocado and he didn't like them so he gave them to me to try - oh the wretched face I made! (I still hate avocados, but the memory is nice.)
  • The first farmers markets of the spring growing season, when I can't wait to just go and browse the tables upon tables of tender baby greens, sweet peas, early sweet corn, and berries. 
  • Mint chocolate chip ice cream on a cone and walking on the beach almost every night while on our yearly childhood family vacation to Myrtle Beach.
  • The dinner that had a profound influence on my career of choice. It was a birthday dinner of mine probably five or six years ago now, where I felt adventurous and ordered Monkfish with a parmesan sweet pea risotto. Not only did I fall in love with seafood that night, but also the beauty and wholesomeness woven into every piece of a well executed dish, and decided that I too would learn to do these awe-inspiring things with food.
  • My first taste of Champaign while on a cruise ship in Alaska. There is photographic evidence of what I thought about that encounter.
  • Picking blackberries at my grandparent's home, and always walking out of the briers with half as many as everyone else - and stained fingertips so I couldn't even hide the evidence of my "one for the bucket, one for me" motto.
  • Mom and I making cookie trays filled with dozens of our homemade Christmas cookies that we start baking the day after Thanksgiving in a marathon month of flour, butter, and sugar for our family, neighbors, friends, clients, contractors, roommates, annual Christmas party, and of course a couple to to keep at home.
So there you go, a little trip down my memory lane. Hopefully this encourages you to think about your favorite  foods as well, so when someone asks you, you'll be ready. 

Shelby, my younger sister, and I. Obviously she is in almost all of my fondest memories so I thought I would include this picture in my post.

Pumpkin is my Favorite Pie

'Tis the season for pumpkin pie friends! And since pumpkin pie is by far my FAVORITE kind of pie, I decided to start the pie eating season a little earlier than normal this year. Who said I had to wait until Thanksgiving Day breakfast to eat pumpkin pie? (And yes, I do eat pumpkin pie for breakfast on Thanksgiving Day every year. It is totally a balanced meal if you put milk in your morning coffee.)

Here I have served it with a vanilla spiced cream, as I was lacking whipping cream to making my own whipped topping for the top. Just as delicious, and it made me start thinking about experimenting with a bourbon spiced pumpkin pie garnished with chocolate dipped apricots, or orange scented pumpkin pie topped with a vanilla amaretto whipped cream. Oh the variations are endless, now all I need is someone to eat all of these experiments!

Monday, November 7, 2011

No Daylight Savings Time

So yesterday was when I was supposed to fall back an hour with Daylight Savings time, but who forgot to change her clock? This girl right here. So I was really up at 7 when I most definitely didn't want to be up any earlier than 8 this past Sunday. No wonder I was so tired when my alarm went off.

You would think that the extra hour would equate to an extra hour of productivity - working on papers, finance homework, analyzing survey results, cleaning, you name it, but nope. Once I figured out I was up a whole hour earlier than I needed to be, what did I do? I made myself a mug of tea and surfed food blogs. Happy Daylight Savings Time me!

Unfortunate for me, however, I was highly unmotivated when it came to dinnertime, so I went with an old favorite - pasta! Carbs and I are thick and thieves, by far my favorite food group, so pasta is a nice item to have in the cupboard. I paired my homemade chunky mushroom pasta sauce with a fall inspired salad (pear slices, edamame, tender spring greens, and a pomegranate vinaigrette) and started planning my next meal.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Healthy vs. Skinny

Since we are taking a trip down memory lane as of late, I wanted to post a comment that was left after one of my blog entries a while back. I think the battle between a "healthy" diet and a "skinny" diet is one that will forever (and unnecessarily) be raged. Healthy has never meant skinny. In order to be healthy, you must eat some of everything, including fat, sugar, and carbohydrates. In fact, the definition of health is "The overall condition of an organism at a given time.  Soundness, especially of body or mind; freedom from disease or abnormality." Nowhere in there did it say "skinny", "thin", or on the flip side "fat", or "obese." Healthy is not a number on a scale, it is a physical and mental state. Healthy is how you see yourself and whether your body can do what you need it to do. I wish more men women, adults, and kids all embraced this notion more readily, knowing deep down that a size 2 pant size is not the overall goal, but instead a balance diet, moderate, consistent exercise, and positive self worth should be what we all destine for. I'll get off my soapbox now but this is certainly one of my passions in life. Feel free to comment on any of these concepts to share your personal opinion on the topic.
(Note about the funny formatting of this post - I have idea how to fix it! I really am technologically challenged so I am not going to worry about it and instead chalk it up to my quirky imperfect charm.)
Below is the anonymous comment to a previous post and my response:
i like that u focus on a HEALTHY lifestyle, not necessarily a "thin" one...too many young girls are told that there natural body shape isn't "right" and it's a shame.
Confession time: I was one of those girls for a really long time too. I thought I was heavy and I hated my thighs and raged a war again the mirror every time I put on a swim suit. I saw all the other girls in my classes who got to wear extra smalls and small sized clothing and wondered what it would be like to always have something that fit you perfectly. But then I started to consider the opposite of my situation. I was always a healthy kid, exercised (I dance and swim religiously,) and had healthy and supportive relationships with family and friends. I always got gold stars at the doctor's and dentist's offices and never missed more than a day or two of school every year for sick days. I looked at the big picture and realized that the size on your tag is hardly a reason to have a bad day. When I was in the eighth grade I started taking control of my health by really being concerned with what I put in my body. I made smarter choices (wheat bread over white, spinach over lettuce, those kinds of things) and really educated myself on nutrition and health. Heck, there for a while I wanted to be a nutritionist because these things genuinely excited me. I liked feeling in control of my health.
Fast forward a few years and I still have my sights set on a food related career, and I still plan on helping those who want it to eat better. You don’t have to deprive yourself in order to be healthy, that’s not the goal at all. Just think about the big picture. That’s what I did and it turned me into a secure and healthy young adult. So many adolescence are constantly comparing themselves to super models and the “skinny” girls at school, but what they don’t realize is “skinny” does not automatically mean “healthy”. I would much rather be healthy, hands down, and ever since eighth grade I have kept that in mind anytime I have a "fat day." And yes, those happen still from time to time. How do I cure it? Get a good nights rest and start over in the morning.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Oldies but Goodies

I realized I have had been holding out on you all! I had a blog before this one, so that makes this blog PeachandKiwi 2.0! But why shouldn't I share some blogs that I have, well, blogged in the past? (I guess my verbs are slightly limited in this instance.) Here is a sweet treat from a while back. Enjoy!

A Hostess Gift
As you all know, I am a college student currently pursuing my Management Degree with my eye on three culinary degrees as soon as humanly possible. I am awfully anxious to become a chef… or at least some sort of force in the culinary world. But while being out on my own (getting myself up, grocery shopping and laundry, working a few jobs here and there plus a full course load, maintaining relationships and balancing work and play…) I have had no trouble taking care of myself due to the wonderful efforts of my mom when I was still at home and under her watchful eye. So this post is only a small tribute to her. And one of the many wondrous lesson she taught me was never show up without a hostess gift. This post is of course dedicated to one of the tastiest hostess gifts I’ve ever given.

I really like to give edible gifts when it is appropriate because it shows that you put some effort into thinking about what your host’s tastes are or what they would savor as a treat. Quick breads are one of my favorites to gift, anything from fruit based ones like banana nut or cranberry walnut, to more savory unique ones like beer cheese bread or peanut butter. Drop and bar cookies are a good choice too because they travel well. Shortbread is a great classic, along with chocolate chip or peanut butter (but remember to consider allergies!) Or, if you want to cater to a more eclectic group of people, try an off the wall combination, like chipotle and apricot, or salted caramel. Plus, you get to play around in the kitchen, what could be better than that?!

Over winter break I was able to do some traveling to visit friends and my boyfriend’s family, and of course I had numerous yummy treats tucked in my bag to show someone that I truly appreciate their hospitality. And I decided to make huge vanilla cupcakes and customize them with various toppings and decorations in order to cater to the different tastes I of my very gracious hosts. There is a caramel with vanilla frosting, orange marmalade with homemade whipped cream, peanut butter and chocolate glaze (since I am convinced that this is the most heavenly combination as of late,) simple chocolate glaze and miniature chocolate chip on vanilla frosting, and to lighten up the mix, a whipped cream and fruit topped cupcake.Remember these are jumbo cupcakes, so my hosts could enjoy these as dessert… or a meal! Thanks mom! For teaching me to be a gracious guest, and for your kitchen. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

10 Things that Make me Terribly Happy

This is a beautiful time of the year - leaves are turning, crunching under your feet as you (or rather, I) walk to class every morning. It is cool in the morning, cool enough to wrap your fingers around a mug of hot tea, but warm enough in the afternoon to shed your jacket and be warmed in the sunshine. These feelings of complete and utter joy, accompanied with my recent surfing on my numerous favorite food blogs, I am borrowing the very smart idea of sharing my favorite parts of this time of year to help encourage you to take a moment to do the same. Maybe that can be the topic of conversation at dinnertime, like it was in my apartment tonight!

So onto 10 things that make me happy this time of year:

10. How pumpkin flavored everything is both appropriate and tasty.
9. I no longer run the risk of my make-up melting off my face throughout the day.
8. As soon as I come home from class, I throw open my windows and enjoy the fresh air and
7. How Earl Grey tea seems to taste better when you can see your breath.
6. I just stumbled upon roller skating as exercise; effective and fun.
5. My family is coming for a visit this weekend! And that is always a reason for happiness.
4. Visits to farmers markets, orchards, festivals, and pumpkin patches and capping off the trip by sticking your head through the funny cutouts and taking pictures.
3. I can now wear my dark purple nail polish that makes me feel edgy and sweet at the same time.
2. Soups, stews, mac n' cheese, muffins, quick bread, cinnamon rolls, hot cocoa, and all those other yummy fall foods I have been indulging in.

and the number 1 thing that makes me more than ecstatic this time of year:
Thanksgiving!! A holiday completely devoted to food, is on the way! I holiday where Mommaw and I can just cook and laugh and cook some more for a good two days! But more on this a little later.

By the way, sorry for excruciatingly long time it took me to post again, I was on a conference for my school Student Government all the way in Rhode Island! Talk about exciting! It was a technology conference (and I know you can't tell from my expert blogging ability (chuckles to self) but I am the last person to adopt any piece of technology) but I had a fabulous time! Networking, representing my university and Student government program we were there to present, and getting to know, through a delayed flight and another delayed one getting home, my fellow colleagues, I had a blast! I could go on conferences every weekend, what fun! Especially if they are in such quaint towns as Scenic Newport, Rhode Island.