..........a blog about food, travel, gardening, and living the good life in Arizona.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving With Friends

Three days ago we shared our Thanksgiving dinner with our dear friends from Nebraska (Connie and Lee Doehring), our first official house guests here in Tucson. For the few days they were here, we had the pleasure of introducing them to the desert southwest showing off the Desert Museum and the International Wildlife Museum, dining at some of our favorite restaurants and, of course, cooking for them in our newly renovated kitchen. I spent most of Thanksgiving day putting every appliance to the test preparing my favorite meal of the year; a menu I planned days in advance to include a new first course this year, butternut squash soup. Here’s the full menu along with source credits in case you want to try any of them:

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu November 26, 2015

Appetizers: Parisian Tapenade (recipe upon request), Baked Feta with Thyme and Honey (Food52), crostini, prosciutto-wrapped cheese sticks (Trader Joe’s) with mustard mayo dip (recipe upon request)

First Course: Butternut Squash Soup (ginger, crème fraiche and spicy pumpkin seeds (Martha Stewart) and chili oil (101 Cookbooks)

Entrée: Roast Turkey (unstuffed – Food Network: Top Turkey Tips http://www.foodnetwork.com/holidays-and-parties/articles/top-turkey-tips.html)

Sides: Orange Candied Sweet Potatoes (Women’s Society of Christian Service – Evelyn Goodell (recipe upon request))
Garlic-Roasted Green Beans & Shallots with Hazelnuts (Fine Cooking: Issue 70)
Bread Stuffing Casserole with Apples (Pepperidge Farms herb stuffing)
Spiced Cranberry Sauce (Epicurious: Gourmet November 1991
Dinner rolls (purchased)         

Dessert: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie (Saveur: September 2007)  

One of the many things I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving is the interest I developed in food preparation while still a teenager in Pennsylvania. Working as a short-order cook at a truck stop during my high school years and later as a waitress when I was attending business school taught me many of the basics of cooking. And the 20+ years I lived in California gave me the opportunity to attend cooking classes with local chefs at restaurants and culinary schools expanding my knowledge base and kitchen confidence. To this day, my passion for food, cooking and menu planning have been the joys that enrich my life and fuel my appetite and creativity in the kitchen. I love sharing them with friends and family and of course, with you, dear reader! Until next post, remember... "you can be old and ugly, but as long as you can cook, you'll always have friends" James Beard. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Two Months In!

We've been in our house now for 2 whole months! After months and months of renovation since May, we are still working to make it our own... hanging wall art, arranging kitchen shelves and finding space in closets for things we'll deal with later. Move-in day was September 21 and it rained the whole day. The garage was filled with boxes and the house with furniture haphazardly placed wherever it would fit. Having downsized considerably, we thought we'd be fine with the amount of space we had to fill in the new house after 3 huge garage sales in Seward to unload items we knew we could live without. We thought the garage in the new house which has built-in cabinet storage could hold the rest of what might not fit inside the house, but that was not the case. In the process of unpacking loads of boxes, we've made dozens of trips to the Salvation Army and to the HabiStore here in Tucson donating many items we can no longer justify keeping. Many items from my vintage collection had to go and some that I've kept for now will eventually go on Ebay later for lack of storage/display storage space.

The most difficult items to part with for me were books. I loaded many boxes with books that I've been carrying around for several decades and took them to a used book store for credit at the store. Some, that they wouldn't take, I gave to Goodwill. I nearly lost it when the attendant at one store took a stack of my books from my car that I didn't have in a box and just threw them into a moving bin. A deep pang struck me to the core (book lovers will understand this affront). I didn't weep, but I was close.

On the brighter side, the kitchen turned out great and we've been cooking up a storm. Here are some photos of the remodel:

Meanwhile the little garden plot I've planted is going strong with tomatoes, herbs, some winter squash and cucumbers. The temperatures here in November are like late summer in Nebraska... warmer days with much cooler nights so not sure how much harvest we'll have out of this late summer crop. The herbs are loving this weather though as are the roses and other flowering plants. Being an El Nino year all the plants seem happier with the extra rain. New to me are the jojoba shrubs with their smooth olive leaves, the aloe vera popping up everywhere under the shrubs, and the dalea which attracts bees by the dozens! The grapefruit tree must be several decades old yet still produces a ton of fruit... looking forward to harvesting some later this winter.

As the holidays approach, I'm grateful for this peaceful place with late afternoon sun that warms away all the day's stress and tomorrow's demands. I know that we are blessed beyond measure to have such a secure and magical place to call home. Looking forward to Thanksgiving, our friend's visiting, the blessings of Christmas and a new year to embrace. Peace to all in these troubled times.