Sunday, 30 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Although I've actually celebrated Thanksgiving in the US once before (in 2006, when I was visiting Dave), we played hosts for the first time this year, spending a lovely lazy afternoon round the table with Dave's parents Don and Rickey. We spent the morning cooking, which was also loads of fun; this was our menu:

- roast turkey topped with rosemary, garlic and sage
- apple and cranberry stuffing (best EVER; recipe below)
- roast veg ('recipe'/method below)
- green beans almondine
- creamed onions
- home-made rolls topped with garlic and paprika
- pumpkin pie Chantilly

Don and Rickey brought round a magnum of champagne, so we were well looked after in every way!

Best EVER Stuffing
(Once again, found on the internet, adapted by Kathryn and Dave).


- cubed whole wheat and white breads, any proportion you choose, to total approx 5 cups
- 1 pound minced turkey meat
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 chopped golden delicious apple
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 3 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 2 - 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 2 teaspoons white pepper
- 3 teaspoons dried sage
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon thyme, fresh or dried
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 4 tablespoons melted butter


Heat oven to 350F (175C). Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a shallow tray; bake until evenly toasted (5 - 10 minutes). Put toasted bread cubes into a large bowl.
Cook the mincemeat in a frying pan, adding caraway seeds, crushed garlic and white pepper as meat starts to cook. After a few moments, add the onions, cook a little longer, making sure to break up all lumps, then add celery, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Add meat mixture to bowl with bread cubes. Mix in chopped apples, dried cranberries and parsley. Drizzle with stock and melted butter, and mix lightly. Spoon into turkey to loosely fill.

*NOTE: This was GREAT stuffing, but made a lot more than we needed to fill the turkey - we ate some of it as we went (hadn't had any breakfast!) and the rest as sandwich filling and as a side dish the next day. I intend to make it again soon, along with some shortcrust pastry, to make pasties. This is so versatile (and so yummy!) you could make it for all sorts of occasions.

Roast Veg

Ingredients (amounts not specified as it will depend on how many people you are serving):

- potatoes
- beets
- carrots
- turnips
- parsnips
- apples (golden delicious were great)
- garlic cloves (whole)
- onions (peeled)


Pre-heat oven to around 350F (a bit hotter can be better, but if you're also using the oven for something like turkey, 350F will suit them both).
Start a large pot of water boiling on the stove; peel all veges that require it; chop into manageable pieces.
Drop in chopped potato and carrot; boil for a couple of minutes.
Fish pieces out with a slotted spoon, put into empty saucepan, shake for a moment with lid held tightly on (this should be enough to lightly bruise the pieces, but not enough to make them fall apart!).
Put in baking tray(s) with a small amount of olive oil, a shake of dried rosemary, and any other herbs you fancy (thyme is nice, as is cracked black pepper, and oregano). Put in oven.
Repeat process with beets; put into different tray if possible (as they will colour everything they're with! This is why you don't cook them along with the potatoes and things).

Mix a small amount of honey with some olive oil in a different baking tray (heat in oven for a moment if they don't want to mix easily); lightly toss turnips and parsnips in the mixture; shake some rosemary over it all. Put in oven along with everything else.

Veges need to cook for around an hour; after about half an hour, add peeled garlic cloves and peeled onions to tray of potatoes and carrot, and add sliced apple to tray with parsnips and turnips. Take the opportunity to turn everything over and make sure all surfaces are covered with oil. Return to oven; remove when brown and tasty; enjoy with gravy and all the other good things on your table!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Brief Transformations

Most mornings, I'm out and about very early, driving Dave to work at 6.30am so that I can have the car for the rest of the day... there is often a brief and fleeting beauty to be found in the otherwise mundane landscapes of our immediate neighbourhood, as the sun rises and the world moves quickly through the magic of early dawn.

I pass this stream every day; it's usually not much more than a drainage channel (though it fills VERY rapidly after storms, and can be a foot from the topmost bank in the morning, but back to its pictured state by evening) but as the mornings have become colder, it often has this hazy, mysterious look. I drive past and think 'I must get a photo of that some time...', and yesterday morning I actually stopped and did it.

This little detailed shot was going to have an accompanying comment along the lines of 'doesn't this look like it could be an aerial shot of some much bigger river?' until I looked closer and realised that if that were so, it would be in a land where ducks ruled the earth!!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

God Jul!!

A couple of weekends ago, Dave and I decided to take a chance on the Norwegian Christmas Festival being held way over on the other side of the city. We were taking a chance because it was a long drive and a big time commitment, and we really didn't know what to expect, but we thought it was worth a go. And how right we were...

It was held in the Norwegian Seamen's Church, in Pasadena. Built in 1928, the church building is charming, and it's clear that it's home to all manner of other cultural gatherings, as they have a swimming pool, and a soccer field, and a fabulous play-ship built of logs, as well as other amenities... all the buildings were given over to the festival (you can see the front of the church in the photo above), as well as some extra space in a marquee out the back.

They had all manner of Christmas decorations for sale,

as well as a selection of cloths by Ekelund Weavers, and things like jewellery and ceramics.

There were also demonstrations of spinning, embroidery,

wood carving,

waffle making (yes, of course you could buy the waffles!),

and how to make krumkakes.

In fact, there was a whole room set aside as a bakery; the bread in the pigeonholes on the back wall was just to die for (we bought a loaf and had eaten every scrap by a couple of days later; American bread is a sorry lot, on the whole, and it was so nice to have something with a bit of guts to it!),

and while a lot of the goods on display there were Christmas specialities,

there were enough everyday goodies, along with tasting plates, to tempt us (we bought both snails and those croissant-like things; both were heavenly).

After seeing everything we could, we bought some salmon open-sandwiches, on rye bread and served with lettuce and egg; just delightful, and took them outside to eat in the fresh air. The atmosphere was just beautiful; golden-haired children running about everywhere, or playing politely in the sandpit, happy groups of people enjoying Norwegian delicacies, and it was actually pleasant to be outdoors! which has been a rare enough experience since my move to Houston.

We went home most gratified with the outcome of our adventuring, as can be imagined.

And now we just have to find a place for our Ekelund weaving...

Friday, 7 November 2008

Kathryn's scrummy banana bread

One of the things I've been having most fun doing, with extra time on my hands and someone else to cook for, is experimenting with recipes. After trying them a few times with different variations, the best of them make it into the sacred document 'Tried and True Recipes' - and this one is, I think, worth sharing. I found the original recipe on the internet, but have made changes each time I made it, and I think this version is the best.


1 cup white sugar
½ cup of brown sugar
½ cup of butter
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ cups plain flour
¾ cup wholemeal flour
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup sultanas

Before beginning, grease two medium loaf baking pans. Mix a small amount of white sugar and cinnamon together, and dust the inside of the baking pan with the mixture.

Mix white and brown sugar together until evenly mixed.
Add butter and mix with sugar.
Add eggs, sour cream and bananas.
Add vanilla, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Add baking powder and flour.
Add walnuts and sultanas.
Pour mixture evenly into baking pans, place walnuts on the top if desired.
Cook for an hour at 300F. After one hour, test; if not cooked through, increase heat to 350F and test at ten minute intervals.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Yes we can

Thank you, God.

(To see Obama's election night speech in full, click here).

Monday, 3 November 2008

"He's not the Messiah..."

You cannot move here without seeing something to do with the election - lawn signs, bumper stickers, badges... At the start of the race I was reasonably disengaged; I wanted a Democrat victory, but didn't feel all that emotionally charged about it. Well, that couldn't be more untrue of the way I feel right now; I don't think it's overstating the matter to say that the election of Obama seems like the only possibility this country has of moving forward; it's not that McCain is a bad person (I'm keeping a diplomatic silence on his sidekick), it's that he's out of touch, on almost every major issue there is. And it's not that Obama is the Messiah, it's that he's capable of inspiring people: the downtrodden, the disenfranchised, those who have always felt not-at-home in the country of their birth, for whatever reason. (For just one example of this, read this article). And of course, his keen mind, sound policies, compassionate nature, and way with words don't hurt at all!

So, we wait with bated breath for tomorrow's results... it's so strange that the result of this election is not a foregone conclusion; if it was being held in almost any other country in the world, it would be.

(I know the graph above is a bit old, but it's the only one I could find. The results are still pretty much the same).