Thanksgiving Wrapup!

I have to apologize for the lack of posting lately.  Thanksgiving came in and took over my whole week!  I love that about the holidays.  I know it’s a lot of work but I really enjoy putting together a big, elaborate dinner.  And before dinner plans, I have been quite busy with the renovations here on my place.  More about that later–let’s recap the recipes!

Main Course: Gobble Gobble Balls from The Meatball Shop via Saveur as well as in the Meatball Shop cookbook.

Buy the Meatball Shop cookbook here.

meatballs  Image via Saveur

Thanksgiving here is for three–myself, my BF, and his brother.  So there’s no real need to do a whole bird or even parts.  I’ve made these meatballs three times now and this was the best time, as I made one change.  The recipe calls for stuffing cubes, and this time I made a whole box of Trader Joe’s cornbread stuffing mix and used two cups of that, rather than two cups of dry cubes.  They were SO moist!

Sides:

Slow Cooker Green Bean Casserole from America’ s Test Kitchen
crock_pot_green_bean_casserol_2-1024x685 image via Passthesushi.com

This was fantastic too!  I’ll never make it any other way.  The mushroom soup you make is wonderful.

Mashed Potatoes and Root Vegetables from America’s Test Kitchen

potatoes image via Leite’s Culinaria

I’ve made these before but it’s been a few years.  I used turnips as my root vegetable.  The caramelization adds a ton of flavor!

Braised Sweet Potatoes from The Great Holiday Slow Cooker Book

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough are back with another tome of a cookbook this January, but to hold fans over they’ve released a 32-recipe minibook (Bruce told me that none of the recipes in the minibook are duplicates).  For the record, I don’t know Bruce personally, but we both post on Ravelry, a knitting forum, and communicate on there.  What I love about the cookbooks is that every recipe includes instructions on how to make it in a small, medium, or large crockpot.  I made the small version of the sweet potatoes.  They were spicy and tender and very light compared to the other cream-and-butter heavy recipes on my table last night.  I’m really looking forward to January when the larger cookbook is released.

Bacon Stuffing–passed down from family

I tried my hand at my BF’s family stuffing recipe this year and wow it is good but sure to take a year or two off your life!  This was the recipe his mother made, and she is deceased now (died long before we got together, so I never met her) so I had to rely on the memories of my BF and his siblings to get it right.  It’s pretty simple–bread cubes, bacon (LOTS of it), onion, celery, seasonings, and egg.  The bacon fat and egg holds the stuffing together.  Yes, it’s a LOT of bacon fat.  But this is a once a year dish, right?  It was a good variation on stuffing, as I am used to stuffing with sausage.

Dessert: Crack Pie from Momofuku Milk Bar via Bon Appetit
crack-pieimage via Bon Appetit

This is so rich and decadent.  I mean look at the ingredients for the filling–it’s sugar, cream, eggs, and butter with a little vanilla thrown in there.  One of my favorite pies, and I’ll be bringing it to the office in a few weeks too for our holiday party there.   This is my second year making it.

And here’s the whole spread:

table

(that’s my dining room!)

This morning we had mini croissants from Trader Joe’s.  They’re in the freezer section.  They’re AMAZING.  It was the first time I’ve ever had them, and I’ll be buying them on the regular now. I’m really lucky to have had a TJ’s open up a half mile from my home this past fall!  Seriously, their croissants are like, bakery quality.

Enjoy your holiday weekend!  I have today off too (I got out 1 PM on Weds, so it’s basically like having two days off already, love how it feels like Sunday but it’s only Friday!)  I plan on refinishing my built in shelves this weekend, plus potentially do some work on my bathroom that’s in progress.  And write a follow up post to my refinishing hardwood floors post from last week!  But for now, I’ll be relaxing.

 

How to refinish 100 year old floors over fifteen months

When I bought my place, in 2010, it came with flooring that  looked like wood, but was really pretty cheap laminate.  I hated it.  Now I know there’s laminates out there that are pretty good quality.   This stuff wasn’t it.  It was also eight years old at the time and starting to show wear–the seams were coming up and looking sloppy.  However, my place is over 900 sqft, and to replace all that flooring wasn’t going to be cheap.

I was envious of the other two apartments in my building (I live in a three flat) that had hard wood floors.  When chatting with my neighbor one day, she told me “Why don’t you just rip up the laminate?  There’s probably the original wood under there.  When they rehabbed these units, they were so lazy and cheap, I can’t imagine they bothered to rip out the original floors.

My BF, who is a union lineman turned general contractor, thought this was a great idea.  “Why not just pull up a laminate board?  Worst case is there’s not hard wood and we replace the bad laminates.”  We lifted up an edge near the back post, and below you’ll see what we found:

FLoors

That’s right!  100 year old, original maple flooring underneath the blue padding which the laminate floated above.  We noticed it was in awful condition though.  We lifted up a few more choice boards around the house to uncover that the majority of the place was done in oak with the back hallway in maple.  For whatever reason, buildings of this era were built with maple in the kitchen and oak in the rest of the house.  The back hallway was originally part of the kitchen, but the floorplan has changed throughout the years.  More on that later.

After ripping out more of the old laminates, here’s some pictures of what we found:

SAMSUNG

 

SAMSUNG

Clearly this wood was going to need refinishing.  And also, note the light rectangles.  That’s where the wood was cut and patched with plywood.  When the place was originally built, the walls were put in first, and then the floors were laid around them.  Therefore, anywhere a wall was removed there was a hole in the floor!  This meant we’d have to patch all those holes….

This story to be continued this week….the BF is out of town visiting a friend so I doubt there will be any exciting cooking for me going on any time soon, so I thought it would be  a good time to post the story of the floors!

 

Den wall

image

So I have this very small den.  I can’t figure out what to do with the end wall here.  Maybe a large picture?  It looks unfinished.  Any insights?

Also, today was the first sticking snowfall of the year.  By the time I left work, though, it was too dark for pictures.  I don’t know if it’s supposed to stick through the night, but I doubt it.

Otherwise, another unexceptional Monday here.  Really was not feeling going back to work today.  I’m really feeling the pull of leaving Chicago these days.  I’ve been here nearly twelve years now, and I’m feeling that the time to move on is in sight.  But I have a lot to do to really move on like get a new job, and finish the repairs and sell or rent out my home.  I think I still have some time here because those aren’t easy steps!

Day 10:Bacon, leek, and butternut squash risotto

image

Most recipes I make because I’m trying to use up stuff in the house.  This was one of those cases and it was a HUGE success.  I’m writing this recipe minutes after “creating” it so I don’t forget what I did.

1 C Arborio rice

1 quart chicken stock (I used my own, homemade stock.  I make stock in the crock pot.  Do y’all know you can do an AMAZING chicken stock in the crockpot on low for about 8 hours?  I do it over night and wake up a bit earlier than usual to strain it)

1/4 C heavy cream

1 leek

3 strips bacon

1 butternut squash, medium sized

olive oil

honey

nutmeg

S&P

First–get the squash roasting.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and cube your squash into bite sized pieces.  Throw them on a cookie sheet or roasting tray and drizzle with the olive oil and honey, and sprinkle with S&P and nutmeg.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Note: my risotto took over 20 minutes to make meaning the squash was done prior to the rice.  I just turned off the oven and let it sit in there til I was finished.

While it roasts, then cut your bacon into small pieces and fry on the stovetop.  Take the bacon bits off and let rest on a paper towel to crisp up.  Heat the quart of chicken stock in a saucepan.

Chop the leek and cook in the bacon grease (Did I insinuate this was healthy?  I hope not).  Add the cup of arborio rice and let it fry for a minute or so.  Then, add the stock about a cup at a time, stirring about half the time.  It’s no big sin if you don’t stir your risotto the whole damn time in my opinion.  Keep adding more stock as it soaks into the rice.

When the rice is finished, about 20-25 minutes later, add in the squash, heavy cream, and crispy bacon.  If you like parmesan, add that as well.