Today I had sort of a strange afternoon. I had to miss work due to a neurologist appointment. L. was also off work, so we went into Manhattan together. The neurologist’s appointment was about what I expected it to be. However, afterwards we tracked down an Alice’s Tea Cup right near my neurologist’s office. That’s where the fun began.

We had an afternoon tea tray – The Mad Hatter. It came with three (GIANT!) scones, two sandwiches, a dessert and two pots of tea. L. had a buttermilk scone and I had a ham and cheese. For our third, we took a raspberry peach scone home to my mother. We shared the curry chicken salad and tea egg salad sandwiches. I much prefered the egg salad as the bread on the curry chicken salad was painfully dry. Dessert was neither here nor there, as we were really too full to care. We had some darjeeling oolong to start and then an apricot brandy tea which smelled amazing, but fell short in taste. Still, all in all it was a lovely afternoon.

Tonight I went to the store and made the final purchases for our Thanksgiving dinner.

Here’s the general menu run-down. If I’m not making them, I’ll put in parentheses who is responsible.

Starters
- Shrimp Cocktail (Mom)
- Roasted Tomato Flatbread
- Roquefort Pear Salad

Main
- Turkey (Mom)
- Green Bean Casserole (Mom)
- Sausage Stuffing (Mom)
- Dara’s Corn Casserole (Thanks for the recipe!)
- Butternut Squash, roasted with rosemary, olive oil and sea salt.
- Sweet Roasted Rosemary Acorn Squash Wedges.
- Brussels Sprout Leaves with “Trail Mix”.
- Root Vegetables, roasted with olive oil, rosemary and salt.

Dessert
- Pies of all sorts. (Mom)

Evening Main
- Ham
- Coleslaw
- German Potato Salad

I’m excited to actually cook something new and interesting! Even, if means that I’ll have to spend time many hours spent cutting, slicing and so-on. It should be a good time and I’ll be sure to take pictures.

Root veggies, ready to be prepped for roasting.

Brussel Sprouts ready to have their leaves picked. My mom must be some kind of crazy measuring expert as she measured out exactly two pounds of sprouts.

Our store had a random bunch of tomatoes left over from the season and super cheap, so I snatched them up.

The tomatoes wound up in a salad tonight along with some baby spinach. I made a lemon, mustard vinaigrette for dressing. I served the salad up alongside a Trader Joe’s Pizza Olympiad. (Kind of a Greek inspired flatbread with kalamata olives, tomatoes and so on.) It made a delicious and meat-free dinner!

My favorite thing about Sundays is that I can sit at the kitchen table and linger over a cup of coffee, doing absolutely nothing. The utter laziness of a Sunday is perfection in my mind.

Right now I’m watching a movie, sipping coffee out of my B.J. Novak mug and contemplating what to do next. Sunday mornings are by far the best part of Sundays.

Right now, I’m thinking a lot about what I’m going to make for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m in charge of vegetables this year. I used to be in charge of pies, but there were a few… accidents. I guess once you accidentally drop an entire pecan pie on its way out of the oven, you don’t get to make pie anymore.

I’m glad to be making the vegetables actually, since my mom makes vegetables the way most people who grew up in the 1950′s do: boil the hell out of those bad boys!

Thanksgiving Vegetables

  • Salad of some sort. I am thinking something like this Pear Roquefort salad over at All Recipes. I’m a little overly in love with pears and cheese right now, so I think this will be a nice combo. I may add beets into the mix because they’re one of my favorite foods.
  • Brussel Sprout Leaves with Cranberries and Hazelnuts. I’ve eaten this dish at Perilla numerous times and it’s beyond delicious. I’m wary about having to pull the leaves off of a pound of sprouts, but it’s going to be worth it, I’m sure.
  • Roasted Root Vegetables. I’m thinking I’ll roast a blend of potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes and turnips with salt and rosemary.
  • Roasted Squash of some kind. Not sure what kind of squash I’ll make or how I’ll prepare it, so I’m totally open to suggestions.

I’m also thinking about doing something with corn, those maybe not as much. I loved the corn I made this summer, but I feel like it may not be as good now in the fall. I’m thinking something like creamed corn, but less scary than the stuff that comes out of a can. Any thoughts?

I cannot even begin to pretend that I’ve been doing anything close to keeping up with this blog. Thus, I hang my head in shame as I return.

I’m trying out something new – Sunday postings. The week is insane for me, with meetings, plannings and after school programs. Much of my energy is spent pulling together whatever I can to eat and then sitting with the dogs and watching TV.

Sunday is one of those days that I love and hate. I love the lazy feeling of a Sunday, but I hate that it brings Monday and going back to work that much closer.

I’m trying to make Sunday all about cooking. On Mondays I, more or less, feel like I’ve been flattened by a steam roller. Cooking anything is not even the first thing on my mind. After having a shame-filled encounter with Rosetto Steam n’ Eat Microwave Ravioli, I decided to start cooking in advance on Sundays.

Today I’m going to be making Turkey Black Bean Chili and Roasted Tomato and Black Bean soup. Their may even be some advance prep for something I want to make later in the week. We shall see.

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Sunday: Dinner with Parents.

Monday: Meatless Monday! Black Bean and Roasted Tomato Soup.

Tuesday: Parent Teacher Conferences, so dinner out. But I will be enjoying Turkey and Black Bean Chili for lunch.

Wednesday: BBQ Chicken Pizza and Salad

Thursday: Chicken, Broccoli, Cauliflower Bake.

Friday: Out to the movies.

Saturday: Spinach, Kielbasa and White Bean Soup.

I think you can tell a lot about a person by the state of their refrigerator. Or at least that’s definitely the case with me.

This past week, had you looked in my fridge, you would have seen it as empty as a ghost town. For me, that means I’ve only been in my house to basically do a little work and sleep. If there’s been food in the house, it’s been take out. I feel like my brain has been all over the place.

Once I get distance from the first few weeks of school, I always forget how busy and intense they are. It’s always half-exciting, half-ridiculously frustrating. I always end up feeling all over the place and painfully scatterbrained.

Today we went to the grocery store and did our weekly shopping. The simple act of writing a menu plan and setting up a grocery list has made my brain feel so much more together. I won’t be driving home, wondering how I’m going to get dinner in my mouth before I pass out.

For me, a full refrigerator is so much about a feeling of security. I’m not saying I spend my days afraid I will starve to death if I don’t have a full fridge. However, I’d generally rather not have to wonder about what’s in my fridge. When I don’t have to worry about what’s in my fridge, I feel like it’s a lot easier to take care of myself. It’s also a lot about knowing that if I really want, I can make myself something to eat, curl up in my PJ’s and do absolutely nothing all day.

Now my fridge is full of fresh fruit, some meat, lots of cheese and a block of tofu. I’m gearing up to get a jump on being ready for the week and by cooking Monday’s meal on Sunday.

Hooray for organization!

I swear, one of my worst faults when it comes to eating is that I always wait too long to eat. I end up postponing and postponing until my hunger becomes that semi-feral, I could eat my own arm if I had to kind of things. Thus I found myself tonight at California Pizza Kitchen enjoying their buffalo chicken pizza, rather than at home, eating buffalo chicken salad.

It’s been hard to get back into the swing of things with eating and working. At home I eat when I want and I know if I need a snack, there’s one to be had. At work, I have a schedule and there’s no nipping out to the store to get something because there’s no real food close by. I need to get better at packing lunch and more so than that, I need to start making lists that include school necessities again.

Am I the only one alone in my feeding fault?

In other news, I’ve been trying out/abusing a new method of cooking recently. I’d never before braised anything until recently. I’m not going to lie – I heard the term on Top Chef and then googled it and discovered it involved searing a piece of meat then slow simmering it in a flavorsome liquid. The first recipe I found involved cooking lamb in red wine and instantly took me back to one of my favorite meals of all time: Blackberry Lamb. I had it at an Indian restaurant back when L. and I lived in Westchester. The flavors in the recipe seemed similar, but I kept looking until I found a recipe that hit all the flavor notes I remembered tasting in the dish. Braised Lamb Shank with Sherry Blackberry Sauce. It was Mike’s use of cardamom that really convinced me I had hit the right track, so I improvised the dish a little and turned out some should lamb chops in a Port Blackberry sauce. It was really delicious, but I’d be anxious to try it out with a true and proper lamb shank. I’ll have to hit it up the local butcher.

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Having fallen in love with braising, I began to wonder if one could braise tofu. Apparently, you can! I made that for Meatless Monday last night and it was delicious, but I noticed the tofu was not incredibly flavorsome. I think that is due to two points – I cut the tofu into smaller blocks than the recipe specified and then seared all the edges so there wasn’t a way for the flavor to get into the tofu. Also, I didn’t have oyster sauce and went with fish sauce, but the broth was kind of week in flavor. Oh well.

For my next shot at braising, I’ve got my eyes on a chicken breast. Hmm. It could be good. Anybody else out there as in love with braising as I am?

My goodness last week was a seriously busy week. I’ve been ramping up to going back to work. Thankfully, I’ve also been able to have a little time left to play -going to the beach and out to meals with friends.

In general, I feel like my menus coming up are going to reflect some of the time constraints work is going to put on me. What’s your favorite simple meal that makes good leftovers?

I have to say, I’m also welcoming the brief bit of cool weather we’re having. It makes me want to eat soup and bake cakes. Not that those two necessarily go together, but they are not things I generally do when it’s hot outside.

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Monday: Meatless Monday! Braised Tofu with Veggies.

Tuesday: Buffalo Chicken Salad.

Wednesday: Baked Ziti.

Thursday: Out for an ELA meeting

Friday: Going to Perilla with friends!

Saturday: Spicy Ginger Chickpeas

Sunday: Beet and Bleu Cheese Burgers

Last night L. and I had dinner with my parents. In an effort to contribute to the meal, I put together some baked vegetable egg rolls. I’m trying to get better at using up the leftovers in the fridge, so these put to use some farmer’s market carrots and egg roll wrappers that we’d had left from previous recipes.

The egg roll filling smelled delicious while it was cooking. The recipe calls for powdered garlic and ginger, but I had fresh on hand so I subbed that in for both. I feel like that changed the overall flavor from just some vegetables cooked together, to something a little more complex. I baked the egg rolls and they came out a crispy, but not crunchy, which was just right. They’re also very light which is nice. They made a good appetizer for the meal without filling everyone up excessively.

The second super-star of the evening was chocolate pie. Chocolate tofu silk pie to be exact! At the supermarket I noticed they had Nasoya’s Silken Creations Dark Chocolate Tofu. My love for chocolate comes second only to my love for cheese, so I figured I wold give it a try. They had a recipe on the back for chocolate silk pie, so I figure I would give that a try.

The product wrapper describes the tofu as a “starter for smoothies and desserts” but I was surprised to see that it was very pudding-like in texture. The recipe I was using called for blending the tofu and some cornstarch, but I was able to do that easily with my whisk. I was also pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was as well – sort of like a Jello pudding snack. The pie comes together pretty easily, though it did over-fill my graham cracker crust, so next time I’ll put less in.

My goal was to fool to family into not realizing that the pie was tofu-based. My mom was the first to try some and loved it. The entire time she was eating the pie, she kept saying “This is so good! It’s delicious!” My dad said it tasted rich and was very filling. My brother was the most suspicious and deemed it “interesting.” He’s been wary of my baked goods ever since I gave him cake with applesauce substituted in for the oil. When we told them it was tofu, their reaction was just kind of “Oh, okay.” Not the “The coffee you’ve been drinking is really Taster’s Choice!” type moment I was hoping for. Oh well.

Yesterday I had lunch with the person I’ll be co-teaching with this year. Per his suggestion, we met up at Chat N’ Chew in Union Square.

Having perused Chat N’ Chew’s menu, I was very excited for their Thanksgiving On a Roll sandwich. It is described as “fresh roast breast of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mayo on ciabatta bread.” Seriously , it embodies one of my favorite holidays and is a combo of some of my favorite (savory/sweet) tastes.

I am sad to report the Thanksgiving on a Roll sandwich is a little disappointing. The sandwich definitely contains all the delish ingredients, but that sandwich was gigantic. It was totally impossible to pick it up and eat it as a sandwich. Each half of the sandwich was easily as big as my hand and stuffed to the gils with turkey, gravy, etc. Ultimately, I had to take off the top part of the bread and eat it knife and fork style. It was delicious, but the joy of eating it as a sandwich was definitely missing.

We weren’t going to get desert, but the waitress totally tempted us with four magic words. “Red Velvet Cake Milkshake.” I deeply adore red velvet cake and who doesn’t love ice cream. It has long been one of my dreams to enjoy red velvet cake and ice cream together. By adding a chunk of red velvet cake to a milkshake, Chat N’ Chew helped me realize that dream. My co-teacher and I split one of the delicious shakes. It was wonderful and exactly what you’d expect – a milkshake peppered with yummy bites of cake. Divine! Oh! And pink! I guess the colors in the cake blend into the milk? It was so very good.

The meeting itself went splendidly. Lots of laughs, similar feelings about personal space and many plans set in motion. I am very excited for this coming school year.

Sidebar: I’m also very excited about the prospect of making a red velvet cake with beets in it. Oh yum!

Sometimes I wonder if technology has made us smarter or dumber. I’m not sure if it’s an easily answered question because there are so many different facets of technology and ways that it highlights our intelligence or lack thereof. What I’m particularly thinking about is finding answers to questions or more information about a topic.

In general, I feel like I’m a person who wonders about a lot of different things. Such as today, when L. and I stopped at Coldstone for a little bit of ice cream to beat the heat. As I enjoyed my chocolate ice cream, I wondered aloud who had discovered how to turn cacao beans into chocolate, specifically bar chocolate. Now L., who is like a walking encyclopedia, mused that it must have stemmed from drinking chocolate as that is something people had been using chocolate for for ages. I made a mental note to look that up on the internet when I got home.

Many of my wonderings go something like that, specifically if I’m wondering about something L. has a particular background of interest in. My favorite of these exchanges occurred when I was watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and had a questions regarding electrical currents in water and I asked L. His response began with “Well, in the original French text…” I love that man so much.

But back to my wondering about chocolate. We came home from lunch and I pulled up Chocolate on Wikipedia. Now, I love that I can get a plain old article on chocolate as well as a more specific article on the history of chocolate. I’m thrilled to know that bar chocolate, or at least chocolate as a hard candy substance was a product of the industrial revolution.

To me, it is so satisfying to know whatever I want to know by just clicking a few buttons. I have all the facts and information I want by just opening up a Google window. If I want to learn to do something, I just look up how to do it. And please don’t beat me up about using Wikipedia. While I know it’s a flawed tool, I have less qualms about using it given that Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture and a man who actually authored encyclopedia articles, gave Wikipedia an okay on quality.

However, my quandary about technology making us dumber is whether I am perhaps too dependent on just Googling it. It’s so easy to look out into the world and pull in information from the vast cyberspace that I have to wonder if I’m just settling for easy answers for thousands of questions. I wonder if I’m only scratching at the surface of thousands of different thoughts. I guess it’s sort of like Trival Pursuit – I’m picking up a little fact about something, but what do I really know?

And to be honest, there’s a whole phenomenon going on with Yahoo answers that completely convinces me technology has made us truly dumb. People sometimes use Yahoo answers for really basic questions or strange advice. Such as one that is up right now: “My mom won’t believe my wrist is broken. What do I do?” I feel like that aspect of using the internet to find out more information only comes back to people expect others to solve their problems. Yahoo’s whole meritocracy system (You get points for answering questions) only encourages people to give really pointless answers. And don’t even get me started on spelling and grammar. I’m not the grammar queen by any means but wow, some of the wordage employed over at Yahoo answers makes me want to punch myself.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Does the internet make us smarter or stupider. Thoughts?

About

Cristen, a New York City school teacher who loves to cook, even if she's not always amazing at it. Lives in Queens with her husband and two pit bulls. Total cheese addict. Fan of anything savory and sweet, espescially Thai food. Likes to eat seasonally. Trying to be a locavore. Learning how to explain what she likes in a red wine: dry, medium bodied with hints of fruit. If I could only have one network on my TV, it would be the Food Network. I cannot get enough of competitive cooking shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef. I adore Anthony Bourdain more than I probably should.

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