Below, white bean and kale soup in the snow -
Around this time last year, I posted our winter cozy food journal. We'd had a balmy Christmas (the boys rode their bikes in t-shirts) followed by a blizzard and five-degree weather. This year we did have one little snowfall.
Below, white bean and kale soup in the snow -
But for the most part, this has been an oddly mild winter.
We had our first picnic on the screened porch in February.
what we've been cooking and trying...
We had dinner at Level, in Annapolis. My favorite dish was the lobster tail with lemon curd. I am going to try to recreate this.
new years banana pudding
We had a little NYE celebration at home with banana pudding for dessert.
I am going to try this banana pudding recipe for our next NYE supper.
We had my siblings over for a New Years brunch. Above, salmon, shakshuka and macarons.
And speaking of brunch, if you haven't already - check out the podcast, Pod Save America. I recommend starting with the "Protest is the new brunch" episode.
We had brunch at Brasserie Beck a few weeks ago. Attempting the classic white wine mussels (roasted garlic, parsley and cream) is on my to-do list for brunch at home.
A winter brunch spread with beef stew, stuffed squash and spinach omelette.
Giving thanks for my healthy, happy boys and my husband.
For the love on both sides of my rambunctious family, always close-knit despite squabbling; full of cousins and great conversation.
And giving thanks for friends, work, a home, safety, and all those basic things taken for granted.
ideas for thanksgiving supper
1. Set the table
Last year we hosted an engagement Thanksgiving supper for my best friend. I had a lot of fun reinventing our old china and coming up with the menu. Read about it here.
2. Cocktail hour
Martinis with marcona almonds and great chocolate - a little, easy luxury to splurge on.
3. Fall beer flight
Or compose a craft beer tasting flight
I love setting a table with pomegranates. Delicious, edible art.
5. Roasted Brussels sprouts as delicious art
6. Stuffed squash love
As soon as it gets chilly, I constantly eat (and post about) stuffed squash. My very favorite is quinoa, kale, apples, and chorizo inside an acorn squash.
Another house staple is roasted vegetable tarts
7. Something Filipino (i.e. from your cultural background) at the table
I am going to reinvent a Filipino dish and make it a tradition on our table. This beautiful NYT article, the American Thanksgiving, gave me the idea.
8. Dessert as art
I posted about these thyme lemon bars here.
9. Dessert as art, pt. II - Edible flowers
10. Dessert pt. III - cocoa with a marshmallow as big as his head
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I've found that I actually really like baking with the boys. They both love to help mix in the ingredients and play with the tools. And since I'm going to have to clean up their messes anyway, a big baking project saves me at least three iterations of gathering 2700 Legos from all nooks and crannies of the house to put them back into the bins (and repeat). It's much more fun to bring the boys into the kitchen for several hours and let them add to the mess that I'm already making in there.
Lemon thyme bars
I followed this recipe from D.M.R. Fine Foods for Lemon Thyme Bars.
I love the kind of baking recipe (or recipe in general) in which gathering the ingredients and the whole preparation process is enjoyable.
Hello, lemons and thyme sprigs.
The little boy dutifully squeezed the juice out of nine lemons to get a cup's worth of juice. He loves detail oriented jobs and also assembled a little pile of plucked thyme leaves for me.
Kneading the thyme crust
And here is a delicious slice.
The glaze is just confectioners sugar and lemon juice. The lemon flavor is very pronounced in this recipe and it's an interesting pairing with the thyme crust that reminds me of shortbread.
behind the scenes of the buche de noel
We made a flourless buche de noel from this recipe.
One of the commenters noted that it was important to really beat the egg yolks (5 minutes) as there were no rising agents like yeast or baking powder. The advice was spot on.
It took exactly nine seconds before licking the spoons became a sword fight.
Here is my husband rolling the cooled cake up. It is supposed to cool like that for half an hour.
I doubled the amount of frosting called for in the recipe so I'd be sure to have enough to frost the exterior of the log. My husband ran a fork through the frosting to make it look like bark.
The traditional method of making the mushrooms is to pipe meringue mushrooms, like this. I took a shortcut and just bought a tube of marzipan. My son made mushrooms like it was play dough and then sprinkled them with cocoa powder.
And while I was preciously placing the hedgehog on his stump perch, this scene was being initiated behind me. I really only had my back to them for about 90 seconds but that is apparently the time it takes for the baby to extend his tentacles to grab and gleefully overturn a bag of sugar.
Prep and cooking time for buche de noel: two hours
Prep and cooking time for buche de noel + sugar cleanup (including use of the Shop-Vac to ward against sugar loving ants, and washing the boys' sugar permeated hair and clothing): three hours
I let the four year old mix up the first try at the batter and he accidentally added too much sugar and took some liberties with other ingredients. I didn't want to waste the fruits of his labor so we just added some box cake mix and morello cherries (his idea!) and poured the yolky batter into a pan. The accidental fluffy black forest cupcakes were actually quite good!
helpful things for baking with kids (and for baking generally)
1. Use a stool (to help the little one stand at the counter) & additionally, set up a tray that is at kid height so he has his own prep space.
2. Have lots and lots of measuring spoons and bowls
This is just part of my collection. I love never running out of clean measuring vessels and it makes it so much easier to set up the assembly line. All the bowls nest inside each other for storage. I've also found that I use the bowls for condiments, toppings and this&that at parties.
4. Make the mixer your workhorse.
5. Make it a breeze to get your ingredients. It took me a while to realize that one of the reasons baking seemed like a chore was because I had to dig out the dry ingredients from the back of the cupboard and then be careful about the trails of white dust everywhere. Then I realized that there is an easy way to store the flours and sugars, like this:
I keep the basic ingredients out on the bottom display shelf and it's just so easy to grab what I need. I made sure to get a wide container that could accommodate a measuring cup digging inside.
Happy baking! What are you baking for the holidays?
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We made Buche de Noel with the boys. The mushrooms are made of marzipan.
(There is a forthcoming blog post about holiday baking that will have all the Buche de Noel details, including the backstory that while I was taking these pictures and preciously arranging the hedgehog, my baby managed to grab the bag of sugar from the counter and gleefully spill all of its contents on his highchair tray and the floor...)
the christmas tree farm
Then we headed to Pruitt's Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree.
We decided to get a blue spruce and the boys picked this one.
If you live in the DC area, this Red Tricycle article provides a roundup of nearby Christmas tree farms.
(While decorating the tree, I learned that the baby knows how to say, "ball.")
gratuitous pictures of our dog in his christmas sweater
Happy holidays from Alyosha!
presents from santa
I still haven't decided what my precise opinion is about what to tell my kids about Santa. All I know is I have zero inclination to bring them to the mall to meet him. My four year old has absorbed a belief in Santa through cultural osmosis. Last year, I adopted my mom's technique of wrapping presents from Santa in brown packing paper. So I think I will just continue to neither confirm nor deny when the subject of Santa comes up, while safeguarding and celebrating their belief that time becomes elastic on that special night when an amazing man and his reindeer deliver presents.
This is what I did last year:
a gingerbread house and setting the holiday table
While my son was making his gingerbread house, I was playing around with Christmas table settings at the other end of the table.
some recommendations for holiday entertaining
I posted here about throwing a big party. (It is about big backyard parties but most of the advice is generally applicable to most gatherings.)
And here are some products we own and have used over the years:
This chafing dish (It costs less to buy this one than to rent one.)
This electric buffet server that keeps the food warm for hours
This tiered serving platter (Vertical dimension is always good on a buffet table.)
This folding table to tuck into a corner when you need more space for food, plates etc.
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We're a pair of lawyers (me, looking for a creative outlet and my husband, who likes working with his hands) with two little boys, a beagle and an old house with an unruly yard. We blog about our projects, food, and travel.
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