Six ways to save yourself this Thanksgiving

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...
English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. Do you need some helping getting dinner together tomorrow?

I’m fresh out of miracles. Instead, I have a good dose of keepin’ it real.

We are delusional in the weeks before Thanksgiving. We convince ourselves that we can cook a 20-pound turkey because Alton Brown says it’s easy. We fill our grocery cart with pounds and pounds of potatoes because boxed mashed potatoes will just not do. We buy a rolling pin and a pastry blender because this will be the year we finally make that pie crust from scratch. And we sincerely believe that from our kitchens will emerge a display of culinary prowess that would make Martha Stewart throw her panties at our feet in adoration.

That fantasy is a few turkey trots away from our realities. For 364 days of the year, dinner is something simple enough to fix after an eight-hour workday, be it pasta with a homemade mushroom cream sauce, scrambled eggs or a bowl of cereal. Why do we think we can pull off a full Thanksgiving spread?

We can’t. No one can achieve the high expectation we set for ourselves. And that’s why you made it to the blog today, because the turkey is still frozen, the mountain of potatoes haven’t been peeled and the butter just won’t blend with the flour for that pie crust.

I can’t save your disaster. But I have some tips to save your sanity.

  • Stick with what you know. Do you have a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe? Do your friends rave about your fried corn? That’s what you need to cook for Thanksgiving. Everyone has a recipe that they have mastered over the years and made their own. Now is the time to whip it out of your recipe box (or iPad).
  • Just make a salad. I can’t think of one Thanksgiving meal that included a salad. It’s not that my family is full of salad-haters; everyone’s just too busy with mashed potatoes and the like to put together some fresh greens. Buy a bag of pre-washed lettuce, toss it with sliced apples, dried cranberries, feta cheese, almond slivers, and a raspberry vinaigrette, and veg heads will be grateful.
  • Think outside the casserole dish. There are lots of other items you can bring to the celebration besides food that your family and friends will appreciate. Run to your nearest dollar store and get some paper plates, napkins and cups.
  • Never underestimate the power of a beverage. Be the cool cousin and bring a few bottles of wine. Is your family more conservative? Stop by a gas station and get some two-liters (bonus points if you get Coke Zero).
  • Break it and bake it. Grab a pack of the ready-to-bake Nestlé Tollhouse cookie dough. No mixing and barely any work — you just separate the squares of dough, put on a baking sheet, and let cook in the oven. Dessert in less than an hour. What’s not to love?
  • Be honest about your shortcomings. Just come right out and say you’re frazzled and can’t fulfill your culinary commitment. So what if the crust never came together? Your family and friends will love you anyway. That’s what Thanksgiving is about.

Bits and pieces: Papa John’s, Dish on Market and other Louisville food news from the web, 9.24.12

Closings

Events

  • Louisville Craft Beer Week, a celebration of Louisville’s beer scene, is going on right now. (Consuming Louisville)

News

Openings

Know of other food news in Louisville and the surrounding area? Leave a comment or send me an email at ashleelclark@gmail.com.

A musical fruit recipe (part 2): This soup will kick you in the throat.


Oh, beans. How I love thee.

 

I’ve bombed every new recipe I’ve tried in the past few weeks.

My banana bread was dry. My fancy mac and cheese was bland. And there is a container pushed to the back of the refrigerator that holds the worst Thai chicken I have ever tasted.

These failures have made me revert back to more simple recipes that include one of my favorite recipes – beans.

I revisited the following recipe that I adapted from Your Highness of All Things Domestic, Martha Stewart.

The majority of the ingredients in this soup are cabinet staples. It’s easy to throw together and hard to mess up. Plus, it only takes one pot to put this recipe together.

Throat-Kicker Sante Fe Soup

Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of corn with bell peppers, drained
  • 1 can of diced green chilies
  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 16 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cilantro (optional)
  • Shredded cheese, sour cream (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a big pot. Throw in the red onion and bell pepper, and cook until softened.
  2. Dump garlic, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and paprika into the pot with the onion and bell pepper. Cook for about one minute until the mix is fragrant, stirring often.
  3. Pour tomatoes, corn, green chilies, black beans, chicken broth and water into the pot. Stir to combine. Bring the soup to a boil, and then lower the heat to bring the soup to a simmer.
  4. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro (if that’s your prerogative – there’s a healthy faction of people who hate the stuff).
  5. Cover soup, and simmer for 30 minutes. This gives all the ingredients a chance to get acquainted.
  6. Serve soup with sour cream and cheese, if you’re so inclined.

 

 

 

No seconds for me. To celebrate Lent, I’m giving up gluttony.

I’ve been absent from the blog lately because I’ve been working on several things:

  • Managing my allergies (curse you, Ohio Valley weather)
  • Laying the foundation for my impending marriage
  • Developing my freelance hustle and subsequently building a Martha Stewart-esque empire

Recently, I started working on something new — my self control.

This week marked my first Ash Wednesday as an Episcopalian, and I decided to participate in Lent (check out a brief history of the Christian practice here).

I’m giving up gluttony.

For me, that means no more second helpings. No more reaching across the table to scoop some fries from Rob’s plate. No more return trips to my mom’s meatloaf dish.

I’m doing all this to gain a deeper appreciation for what I have. The fact that I even have a first serving is a blessing. It’s something that I take for granted far too often. I’m also taking this 40-day period to do some praying, thinking and writing.

Anyone else giving up something food related for Lent?

Throwing an Academy Awards party? Here are some ideas for entertaining a crowd

Photo courtesy of Dave_B_ via Flickr.

The Academy Awards ceremony is my Super Bowl.

I wait all year to see overpaid celebrities in expensive clothes accept awards for movies I may or may not have seen. Why? Because it’s just so glamorous. And every once in awhile, you get a surprise (remember Oscar winners Three 6 Mafia?).

Such an extravagant event is worthy of some stellar eats.

Here’s a collection for the people who will throw Oscar viewing parties and need something to feed their guests Sunday night. But this list also works for the folks like me who will be under a Snuggie for four hours watching the awards.

  • AllRecipes never disappoints with its collections of food for various occasions, and the website has some great Oscar-night suggestions. I’d like the ham bone soup for Winter’s Bone and margaritas on the rocks for 127 Hours. (All Recipes)
  • If you’re keeping the festivities simple, here’s a guide to some of the best microwave popcorn brands on the market … (Epicurious)
  • … And here are some labels to make your popcorn a little fancy. (The Kitchn)
  • Need a laugh? The snarky website Gawker has compiled a list of tongue-in-cheek dishes to serve during the awards, including Black Forest Swan Cake (“Garnish with coconut shaving ‘cuticles.'”), Helena Bonham Tartar Sauce and Annette Beignets. (Gawker)

Bits and pieces: Carnival Splendor Spam, Martha Stewart and other food news from the web, 11.15.10

  • It’s been a few days since the Carnival Splendor cruise ship stuck at sea was towed into San Diego. But did the cruise line offer Spam to its stranded passengers? The company says no, but passengers disagree, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. Whatever the case, lots of cruise guests were peeved during their 72 hours stranded off the coast of Mexico following a fire in the ship’s engine room. Some passengers reported waiting in food lines for two hours for delicacies such as hot dog salad, green bean sandwiches and Pop-Tarts.

 

  • A nutrition professor at Kansas State University ate only convenience food items for two months – and lost 27 pounds in the process, according a piece by NPR. Mark Haub limited his intake to 1,800 calories a day, which is why he lost weight despite downing a diet of Doritos, Twinkies and Little Debbie Snacks. From NPR:

“I kind of took the stance that … let’s say we reduce obesity, reduce body weight, move somebody — me — from overweight to healthy weight, but we do that with foods that aren’t recommended,” (Haub) says. “Is that healthy?”

 

  • The hottest class at Harvard this semester is Science of the Physical Universe 27, also known as Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, according to an article in the Boston Globe. According to the newspaper, the class “uses the culinary arts as a way to explore phases of matter, electrostatics, and other scientific concepts” and is taught by Harvard professors and renowned chefs. I know I’ve graduated, and I’ve never applied to go to Harvard, but can I take this class via satellite?

 

  • Martha Stewart slaughters her own turkeys for Thanksgiving – but she gets the birds sauced on mini bottles of alcohol first. Check out this clip of Her Majesty Stewart cuttin’ it up with Stephen Colbert during a segment on The Colbert Report.