Getting sassy at the airport

An open letter to my fellow holiday travelers:

I am not going to dwell on this first one, but I just want to let you know that you do not have to wait for an invitation to step up to an open kiosk and check in.  This system has been in place for quite some time now.  There is not a human for every screen.  You are in charge of your own destiny here.  When you see an open screen, step right up.  Check yourself in.  If you wait for someone to invite you to the kiosk it is going to be awhile and will be the same result.  You still have to check yourself in and wait for one of the actual humans to come around and take your bag.  Okay, so I dwelled a bit more than I meant to. 


Secondly, I just want to state the obvious and remind you that traveling during the holidays is crazy making.  It is going to be crowded, loud, and all around uncomfortable for the next day or so until you reach your final destination.  Giving your bag a much-needed seat for an actual human in a crowded airport is not going to change this fact.  I know that you want to treat your bag to the very best, because it does such a good job of carrying all of your crap around, but please do not wait for someone to ask you that seat is taken by an actual person before you to move it.  See all those people sitting on the floor?  My guess is that they would rather be in a chair!

So, all you other reasonably respectful people out there, let’s band together.  When looking for a seat, purposefully choose one that is occupied by a bag.  Mwah ha ha.  Evil plan hatched.  Please note that none of this applies if you are in an empty-ish waiting area.  Then by all means give your bag its very own seat.  

Also, this year is the first time that I noticed so many people traveling with their pets. It was like a giant dog park, rather than an airport. I think that is great.  I always with I could take Porter when we travel.  I just have a few notes ( I promise to step down from this soapbox, ahem, blog soon).  For those of you traveling with “service” dogs, great job getting around the system.  I commend you for doing what I am not ballsy enough to do. 

But, at least pretend to have a real service dog.  Attempt to maintain your dog’s attention and make it look like a service dog and not your semi-well behaved pet.  Or maybe have your loved one push you around in a wheel chair.  Something other than stating so loudly that any passerby can hear that you are doing this because they leave you no other choice when traveling with a large dog.  Oh, and p.s. there is another choice.  Boarding.  Just sayin’.

One more note on the subject of dogs.  I love doggies.  They are great.  Travel with them to your hearts content.  But, if you happen to be traveling with a dog that cannot stop barking, please do us all a favor and get some tranquilizers from your vet.  Your pet is obviously stressed and so are we.  It is really a win-win.

Okay, so that is all I have from the strange land of airport travel three days before Christmas.  Take care of yourselves out there, and those around you too.  Stranger or not.

(stepping down now)

Stuff I wish I made this Holiday Season

Things have been busy this last part of 2010.  To be honest, neither Mr. Man or I have been in the holiday spirit.  Some years are just like that.  Life makes things too busy to care about hosting the best holiday party, cooking dozens of cookies, and decorating your home.  And that's okay.  These things are supposed to be fun, and when you are so busy that they feel like a chore, then you shouldn't feel bad about giving them up for year.

This year I have been living my holiday cheer vicariously through the blog world and thinking about all the things I want to do next year. 2011 is going to be a very tasty and crafty holiday season!

I always dream of giving away baskets of homemade goodies.  This year is the first year that I have ever canned anything.  There were some successes and some failures.  Now that it is the end of the year, all that is left to give that is worthy of it's recipients are some blackberry and/or raspberry jam for dear old mom and dad.  Sigh.  Maybe next year I will get around to making:

Each year, I usually love to try out a new cookie or two that might make it into the family repertoire of holiday cookies that come out of the recipe box every year.  Maybe next year one of these will be added to the ranks of chocolate oatmeal, magic cookie bars, rum balls, and Russian tea cakes to name a few.  A couple of these recipes are from the Momofuku Pastry Chef of recent fame.  If you haven't heard of her yet (or David Chang the savory chef/ owner of the Momofuku dynasty) just know that they are the current culinary rock stars. 

I had my first macaron (not to be confused here with a marcaroon, the pile of coconut goodness) the other day at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery.  I thought I hated them.  But, a friend who had been there before bought a bunch of different things for us to try.  I figured if there were ever a time to try a macaron it would probably be at the famed bakery of Thomas Keller.  It turns out I love them. All these years I had been mistaking these tiny little nuggets of flavor to be the same as meringue cookies (which I still hate).  A whole macaron world has opened for me.  The food world is currently obsessing about them too so there are lots of recipes out there.  They seem ridiculously hard to make, but I want to try anyway.  The flavor combinations are endless and inspiring.  A few of the many I think would be fun to try:

I also love to think about and plan holiday dinner parties here and at home with the family. Just like Thanksgiving it seems like a great time to bust out new recipes that require lots of time and/or lots of fat.  So, another thing on this list of stuff I wish I did this holiday season:  Cook up a storm.  Here is just a sampling of some of what I have been salivating over out there in foodie blog land.

For many years Mamacita and I had made a tradition of searching for the perfect bread pudding recipe, trying out a new one every year.  Finally, two years ago we found The One.  From what I remember it was an Emeril recipe for a tropical style bread pudding.  Pineapple, coconut, and rum sauce.  The perfect bread pudding storm.  I remember the following year after discovering said recipe, I was all set to make it again and Mamacita was on the search for a new recipe.  Apparently, we both had different versions of this tradition.  I thought we were searching for The One.  She thought the tradition was to try a new recipe every year.  I have done some searching am not sure exactly which recipe we used, but here are some ideas for this and other bread puddings.  If I can find it when I am at Mamacita's, I'll try to post it.

Nuevo Cubano Bread Pudding (this might be the one I just ranted about)

I could go on and on and on with the bread puddings.  And don't even get me started on the savory bread puddings!

Sooo....these are just some of the things that I would like to do next year.  I welcome any suggestions of favorites you may have or things you want to try to accomplish this year or next!

Back on the blog again baby -or- Butternut squash gratin with Ginger parsnip puree

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Oh dear. Its been awhile.

A lot has happened since I last wrote. Unfortunately, not very much from the list I last wrote about. Would any of you notice if I went back and edited it to say things like graduate a quarter earlier than I was planning, move to California, or search for gainful employment? Oh, and become engaged to Mr. Man. :) Cause that is a list I totally would have rocked.

So, that is essentially what I have been up to lately. I will write about them more as time goes on.

I am excited to be getting this first post written to end the long silence I have had. The longer I went without writing, the harder it was to sit down and write about all the things that have happened and the meals that have accompanied those events. Overwhelming.

Luckily, I have some really great friends and family who keep telling me to get my bum back on the internets. So here I am. And of course I have a hearty winter recipe for you. Any excuse to turn on the oven is always welcome in my kitchen. And so are you (us sharing a mile and all).

Butternut Squash Gratin and Ginger Parsnip Puree
serves 4

adapted from
Vegetarian Food for Friends

This recipe is perfectly paired. Individually the gratin and the puree are just okay. Together, on the same fork both are elevated to party in your mouth status. That is what I love about this book. Many of the recipes are listed with side dishes that pair perfectly and make you look like a flavor genius to your guests. This recipe in particular also deserves a fresh, crunchy salad alongside it to break up the heaviness of the winter foods.

For the gratin:

4 lbs. butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled seeded and cut into large chunks
1 Tbs. olive oil

4 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into pieces

12 oz. corn (drained if canned, thawed if frozen, not on the cob, if fresh and if you can get fresh corn in the dead of winter)

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

2 cloves garlic, grated on a micro-plane (or chopped)

leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme

salt and pepper to taste

For the gratin topping:

3 cups bread crumbs

4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

3 Tbs. olive oil

For the ginger parsnip puree:

1.5 lbs parsnips, peeled and chopped

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. powdered ginger (make it 1.5 tsp if you want a more gingery taste rather than essence of ginger)

1 1/4 cups heavy cream (I think that this recipe would work fine with even fat free milk...just add less to begin with and add as you see fit to get the right consistency of the puree. I happened to have some from thanksgiving so I went for the recommended dosage of fat. Sorry about all the ingredient notes in this post. Stopping now.)

salt and pepper (use white pepper if you have it. Okay, now I'm really done)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put all of the ingredients for the gratin (not including the gratin topping ingredients) into an ovenproof glass baking dish and mix together. In a separate bowl stir together the ingredients for the gratin topping then pour it over the gratin. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until the crumb topping is a golden brown.

While this dish is baking start to prepare the ginger parsnip puree. Put the chopped parsnips, salt, white pepper (or regular will work too, I just like the way white pepper doesn't show in this dish), and ginger on a baking dish and mix together. Make sure all the parsnips are in a single layer and bake them in the same 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes.

When the parsnips are done transfer them to a food processor along with the cream and blend until smooth. Adjust to taste with the salt and pepper. Put the puree in a covered ovenproof dish and put it back in the oven for up to 20 minutes. I left mine in for this long and it started to brown along the edges and gave it a bit more of a deeper, developed taste.
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