Friday, November 27, 2009


Well, we survived! It was a lot of work, but Miss Chef pulled it off (with a little help from yours truly of course...and several other hands in the soup).

So, before the pictures, the menu:

Hors d'oeuvres
Fruit & cheese platter: chèvre, aged goat's milk, smoked Gouda, brie, garlic & herb, mustard & ale cheddar
Charcuterie platter: pâté w/dried fruits, 2 kinds of French-style saucisson, prosciutto, pancetta

Roasted free-range turkey and gravy
Sage dressing
Cornbread dressing with sausage and roasted chestnuts
Cranberry sauce
Mashed potatoes (nothing fancy, just good)
Pan-roasted sweet potatoes
Green bean casserole
Shaved brussels sprouts with brown butter & lemon
Sautéed mushrooms with green onion & herbs
Tossed green salad
Assorted dinner rolls
Sticky buns

Apple pie
Pumpkin pie
Pecan pie
Peanut-butter pie
Jello salad

Although we lost an element in the oven halfway through the day (why do these things always happen on Thanksgiving??), and the turkey took an extra two hours to finish, it was indeed delicious. Last year we'd bought a natural turkey through EarthFare, and it was very tough. This one wasn't tough at all, and the flavor was amazing; a far cry from the bland stuff that we usually get. The dark meat especially was like a whole different...bird.

Well, we have a lot of furniture re-arranging to do today, so I'll let you enjoy this short slideshow of yesterday's events. I should warn you that, other than the turkey, I didn't really get many pictures of the food; I was a little busy when it started hitting the plates!

Hope you all had a chance to sit down and enjoy a meal with the ones you love.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: T'Day Feast 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks

Today's the day...our turkey is making the ultimate sacrifice so that we may have a festive meal on Thursday.

I prefer to be mindful of what it takes to get food on my table, so I dedicate this post to the anonymous Tom who's giving up his life for my dinner.

Thank you, Tom. We'll do our best to do you justice!

Friday, November 20, 2009

FriFrags: Crazy Days Are Here Again!

Meet Luigi. He's sort of a kitchen mascot...not so much as the dog, but Luigi's been in at least three different kitchens with us, so he's been through a lot with us. I'm using him as my blog intro today, because we're now into Big Food Season around here.


So, around here, food starts with Miss Chef. She has been delivering all kinds of interesting news to me lately. These tidbits usually are handed out after 10:00 at night, when I'm headed to, or already in, bed, and Miss Chef has just come home from work.

Such as, "Chef Charles called me, and wants me to work as many hours as I can this week." Chef Charles is the boss at her THIRD job. So now Miss Chef's schedule looks something like this:

10 am -5 pm (or so): Bosky Acres Farm

8 am to 2 pm: Chef Charles or Bosky Acres (alternating)
3 pm to 10 pm (or 11...or 12): Restaurant

7-12: Farmers' market (she's running the Bosky Acres booth this week)
2-11 (or 12...): restaurant

possibly Chef Charles
clean and rearrange house for Thanksgiving
Oh, and Chef Adam invited us for dinner

Wheeeee!! In the meantime, my own day job is hiking up the overtime again; we've lost a member of our department, so we'll be carrying an extra load for the next month or so. Which means while Miss Chef is at the Matthews market Saturday morning, I'll be swinging by the other market before heading into the office. I swear I could work a full 8 hours and still be half a day behind. It's gonna be a bit tough, but man oh man, the overtime sure will make this a better holiday season than we've had in many a year!


Speaking of holidays...I have GOT to share our upcoming Thanksgiving plans with you all! Remember those little tidbits of interesting news Miss Chef has been delivering? Well, many of them have started with "Oh, I invited...".

In September, we invited my parents to come up and stay for Thanksgiving. They did the holiday with us a couple of years ago, and we had a lovely, relaxed Thanksgiving in our little home. This year I've finally got that Friday off--hooray!--so I was looking forward to several lazy days sitting around the living room.

But I have since learned that Miss Chef has a whole other idea of the ideal Thanksgiving. And it involves cooking. A lot. For a lot of people.

You see, the whole Christmas-New Year's holiday season is a mad marathon for her. Not only does Chef Charles start calling (he runs a catering business), but it's the busiest time of year at the restaurant; this is what keeps the place in the black during the summer doldrums. Reservations, special weekend dinners with singers, office parties and catering jobs have already started to pile up. So by the time Miss Terra gets a day off, it's December 25th, and her main objective is the couch.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is still within the relatively normal time of year. And, being who she is, Miss Chef can't pass up the opportunity to do what she loves best: feed people.

At this point, I think there will be 16 of us sitting around two tables in our living room. We're already making plans to move out the couches and place side tables strategically around the room, to hold hors d'oeuvres and drinks. Have I mentioned our house is only 1300 square feet?

But that's nothing, compared to the strategic planning Miss Chef has already started:

Apparently, this is how the professionals do it. On the left, the menu, which includes two kinds of stuffing, two kinds of potatoes, at least four vegetables, and I'm afraid to count up the desserts. The middle is a double column of ingredients, which will inevitably be broken down into shopping destinations: two different farmers' markets, the grocery store, and our own back yard. The final column is tasks: brine turkey Wednesday; shave brussels sprouts Tuesday; etc. I think it's hilarious she's also included "roast turkey--Thursday." As if she'd forget.

Now, she is delegating out several things: Chef Adam will be in charge of wine--hooray! He and his wife are very good at wine! Another friend will probably bring a small ham (can only fit so much into a single oven). And of course, my mother is more than happy to act as prep cook. She and Dad will be at our home all day Wednesday with neither of us to entertain them. And Mom loves making pies.

Phew! Last night I finally told Miss Chef I was feeling a little bulldozed from a quiet 4-person holiday to this open house of a feast. That's when she explained her feelings about Thanksgiving, and how important it is to her. So I simply asked her to check with me next year before inviting yet another family--I'm quite sure I'll let her do whatever she wants, but I can at least pretend some of it was my idea, right?


Now, with all this Thanksgiving prep, overtime at work, worrying about whether Miss Chef will survive the next month and a half, and fussing over Poor Rosie being alone for 10 hours almost every day, I'm not at all surprised I've been a little tense lately. I think I've done a damn good job of holding my rising panic/frustration/foreboding sense of impending disaster in check. But y'know, sometimes you just gotta have a release. And sometimes, it's not when you planned it.

Last Tuesday night I knew I was going to be busy after I got home from work. I had to lesson plan, make sure Rosie got a nice long walk, and cook up the thawed sausage Miss Chef hadn't gotten to on Monday. And try to get to bed before ten.

I was on the dog walked, came back and started the computer for lesson planning, then got into the kitchen and started pulling ingredients out of the fridge.

And then...I hit the pantry.

Our pantry is a small closet in the kitchen, just the width of the door that covers it, and less than three feet deep. Needless to say, it is too small for someone with Miss Chef's food interests. So we make do; every couple of months one of us gets a bug and tries to organize it. But I get fussy when Miss Chef does it, because she's more interested in stacking things tight, while I try to make sure the more commonly-used items are in front of the Certo pectin we use once a year.

Well, as I was looking for pasta, I discovered two things: one, we only had a half box of mini shells, and two...GODDAMMIT, WHY THE *BLEEP* IS THIS *BLEEP*ING *BLEEP* IN HERE...WE'VE GOT *BLEEP*ING TORTILLAS IN HERE, AND SHE JUST WENT AND BOUGHT MORE!! THIS *BLEEP* DOESN'T BELONG WITH THE PASTA!


Well, I also found out that I can throw a bag of popcorn kernels further than a package of cellophane noodles. And Rosie found out that sometimes the living room is the place to be when Mom #1 is cooking.

But never fear! After I settled on making do with my half-box of shells, I remembered reading in more than one place of home cooks who enjoy their time in the kitchen as a stress reliever. You know, sharp knife, chop-chop-chop. Well, I thought, I guess I should do that. Either that, or just check into the hospital now, so I'll be there when the aneurysm hits.

So I emulated the cooks. I channeled all my anger into cutting, tossing, sautéing. I had at that onion; cut right through that pesky sausage skin; reduced that pepper into bits with my knife. I didn't stop to worry whether I should cook the sausage in two batches; whether the onions were cooked down enough...I just tossed the shit together and let it fly (or fry, hee hee).

I felt like Miss Chef, actually. My cooking was a step more aggressive than usual, and I knew as I was doing it, that it was going to work. My anger made me stop second-guessing myself, which was just as good as greater confidence at the stove. I wasn't afraid of the salt and pepper, and when I realized I needed another flavor, my single-minded drive allowed me to stop dithering and just grate some fresh parmesan.

And voila!

Hmm...well, it looked a lot better in person. And dammit, it tasted good. A coworker tasted some that I brought for lunch, and was amazed I made something as good as Miss Chef!

Oh, and Alix? Notice the veggies? Three kinds, thank you very much!


Finally, before I go, I just wanted to share a new dish Miss Chef tried out. I'd heard about it during my years studying French, and then we watched the Québec episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. It looks disgusting, but sounds delicious: it's poutine!

What the heck is poutine? Well, I'd say it's a great way to battle the elements. It is a plateful of french fries smothered in gravy and covered with cheese curd. This is probably not authentic; we used cheddar cheese curds from Trader Joe's; who knows what kind of cheese curds the Québecois had at hand when this dish was born?

Anyway, we both liked it, though it would have been better if we'd assembled it before the fries cooled down. However, we still have about a cup of cheese curds, and I'm not sure exactly what we're going to do with it.

Alright, I'll let you go now! May you all have delicious Thanksgivings filled with love, good feelings and plenty of tryptophanic naptime.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Segments: Flowers and Food

There's a little story behind this starts out with my mom, who, during a visit in September, bravely waded into the grassy clump this bed had turned into, and cleared it out. Amazingly, the grass didn't grow back in immediately, leaving us with an actual piece of landscaping that looked good.

But then, something very unusual happened a couple of weekends ago. Something that hasn't happened in at least five years. It was Halloween, a Saturday. Shortly after noon, Miss Chef and I were madly carving our jack o'lanterns before she had to leave for work at one o'clock--she managed a 20-minute carving, then headed to the shower.

Then the phone rang, and everything changed.

It was Chef Adam, saying that, between trick-or-treating families and predicted rain, things were going to be super slow that night, and was Miss Chef interested in having the night off?


I was literally jumping for joy after she hung up the phone; I've been having to face the trick-or-treaters alone for years. Finally, Miss Chef could be there with me! Not only that, but this meant that, for the first time in... yeeeeaars, Miss Chef and I had a whole... weekend... off.... together. Not just two days, cobbled together with holidays or vacation time, but an honest-to-God, Saturday and Sunday, just-like-everyone-else weekend.

I can't remember all of what we did, but it would probably sound pretty taking down decorations, cooking dinner, watching a dvd... together, for once. The point was, we didn't have to cram it all into a morning and a day. We didn't have to choose between using our together time for rest or for chores; we could do both!

All of which is going a very long way to say: look! I finally planted pansies this year! Thanks, Mom!


You know, I've come to realize that a lot of the truth in our blogs exists in what we don't write about. Like, say, have you read anything here recently about the farmers' market? Nope! For several months, that was because I had to work Saturdays. But for the last six weeks or so, it's only been because it's so dark in the mornings, and I didn't want to drag myself out of bed.

Well, this morning I was actually and fully awake before 7:00, and the sun was finally up before I when Miss Chef said, "Do you want to go to the market?" I said, "Yes."

Of course, the market is hardly the bustling mini-city it was during the summer. Only about 2/3 of the vendors are still there; the other empty stalls have a sad, abandoned look to them. And the ones that are open no longer overflow with vast quantities and varieties. Since we have realized that this is mostly a social visit, though, it doesn't bother us. We still got some tender arugula, pork sausage and some baked goods for breakfast.

Our shopping was cut back a little, however, when we stopped by the cooking demonstration. This week, it was Chef Bonaparte from the Art Institute where Miss Chef graduated. I described him a bit in my "Meeting Chefs" post back in March; suffice it to say that Miss Chef and I both think the world of him. So, when he was looking like he needed some help, Miss Chef was more than happy to step in! Which left me wandering the market alone for an hour or two...but I'd kind of suggested it, so had to keep my whining to a minimum.

(The attentive crowd...testament to Chef Bonaparte's teaching talent!)

Of course, it's hard for me to stay lonely at the market. Chef Adam showed up, wearing jeans for the first time since I've known him. Didn't stop him from lending a hand here and there, though! I also chatted with Michele from Bosky Acres for a while; she and Miss Chef helped organize a cheese-making workshop this past week that turned out to be underwhelming.

And I stopped to talk to Mindy of Tega Hills greenhouses. They didn't have the fennel Miss Chef had been hoping for, but I found out that Mindy's a language geek, too! She thought I was super cool for having an MA in French! It was a nice reminder that farmers are interested in more than dirt and fertilizer.


And speaking of local farmers, there was another exciting phone call this past week. Carl of Carlea Farms left a message saying that he has a turkey for us! That's a picture from their website of last year's, erm, crop of heritage bronze turkeys; aren't they gorgeous?

We had been too late to reserve a turkey this spring (in May, we were too late!), but Miss Chef put us on the waiting list, and it paid off! I don't know what would make somebody change their mind about a turkey they'd been waiting on for 6 months, but who cares now? I'm just delighted to know that my Thanksgiving dinner is still alive within 50 miles of my table, and will be until November 23rd. How much fresher can you get, without wielding the axe yourself?


The pecan harvest is dwindling; the recent spate of winds from Ida's remnants probably blasted the rest to the ground. But I'm still delighted at the full bowl I've harvested. And I have to tell you, I'm nuts about these nuts! I don't know if I've never really paid attention to them before, or because these are so crazy fresh, but these pecans taste aMAzing.

Unfortunately, they're not a papershell variety, so I've been unable to get entire halves out, or I'd have Miss Chef cooking up a batch of candied pecans! She made some a few weeks ago, and I went through them like, well, candy. So I bought her a package of pecan halves from the grocery store, and as soon as she gets a spare moment, she'll candy them for me. And maybe, if I'm alert enough, I'll be able to tell you how she did it!

In the meantime, I'm happy enough gobbling up the bits and pieces I pull out of my own gleaned pecans. Glad we already have another gobbler to stuff & serve!

Continue reading below for my short report on our Renaissance Festival visit last weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Glorious Geekdom of RenFest

Wow, I must be really suffering from Blogitis or something. Dunno what's gotten into me.

First, I want to thank all you lovely readers for taking a moment to respond to my last, whiny post about how nobody loves me (or something along those lines). All your thoughtful comments made me immediately feel guilty of acting like a spoiled brat! Now you've all taught me that a little whining will get me all the attention I want. Well, I'll try not to take advantage of it too much.

Even so, I seem to have withdrawn from the blogosphere a bit, and I'm not gonna make any excuses; it's just dropped on my list of priorities. Plus, they've lowered the hammer at work about being on the internet, so my little blog-breaks are much harder to manage. And so I really can't complain about no Mom used to say about letter-writing, gotta write some to get some!

But I have been wanting to post some pictures from the Carolina Renaissance Festival last weekend--tried to on Monday, but Blogger's suddenly gotten cranky with me, and is being a b*tch about uploading. Tonight, though, Miss Chef's at work, I'm mostly caught up with housework, and I don't have to grade or lesson plan, so I was very patient and got them up!

Huzzah! I've finally figured out that what I really enjoy about RenFest is the atmosphere. Sure, the smoked turkey legs are fun (and greasy...I'd forgotten that detail!), and occasionally I find a really cool and unique Christmas gift for someone. But it's just being out on a lovely fall day, strolling around a partially-wooded area, with a bunch of creative, if somewhat geeky, folks doing what they love. It's a bit like reading an absorbing novel; it lets you pretend you're somewhere (and somewhen) else.

And, when I say "atmosphere," I think I really mean, "people watching." This little pirate was absolutely adorable, even when he tried to use his sword to cut the tent ropes. Unfortunately, he became overwhelmingly shy when he realized I was pointing his camera at him, and this was the best shot I could get. His mom offered to rent him to us for the day (she had 4 or 5 others to keep up with, bless her).

For the most part, however, I wasn't comfortable taking random shots of the costumed festival goers, so I don't have a whole lot of "atmosphere" pics to share.

As it turns out, I'm also not very comfortable with the whole sword-swallowing thing, either. The actual sword part wasn't so bad... was the parts involving the guy's nasal passages that got to me. 'Nuff said. (Miss Chef enjoyed it, though...I think...I was busy averting my eyes.)

As I mentioned earlier, there's also a fun shopping aspect to the festival. One year I got my mom a beautiful glass iris; Miss Chef bought her mother a very expensive hand-woven shirt another year. This year, however, no such inspiration struck.'s always worth a look, 'cause you really never know what you might come across.

The afternoon was wearing on, so just a little more atmosphere...

This tree guy, or as I like to call him, the Ent, is an actual human wearing a costume that makes him about 8 feet tall. The face actually changes expression, so I'm not sure what's guy and what's costume. It's just this side of creepy...which makes it fascinating. You should click on the picture to get a better look at the fascreepination.

Oh, and we couldn't leave without trying...

We usually eat part of it, take the rest home, use it in a thrown-together pasta dish, and save the bone for stock! Don't know if we'll make it through all those steps, but it's a good system when it works.

We had time to catch one final show before the day's end; we chose these wonderfully hilarious acrobats, who include lots of fire in their finale performance.

They call themselves Barely Balanced, and they are. I recommend stopping by their show, if they happen to be at a renaissance festival near you! (It's out of focus because they were juggling those flaming torches, all while keeping up very clever banter.)

Well, tomorrow's Friday, so stop by later in the evening, or sometime Saturday, and I'll try to catch you up on the rest of life these days in Flartopia. And, as always, thanks for stopping by...and I mean it!