2010, Wrapped and Unwrapped.

As I sit here, snuggled in the cozy confines of my bed, with a smidge of coffee left, I can’t help but feel it is finally time to get my act back together and pay this blog a much needed visit.   The trees and grounds outside blanketed in snow, and as much as I would like to remain cuddled in a makeshift fort of blankets and pillows, eating Whiskey Bread Pudding and watching more episodes of Dexter (recently addicted), the real world outside calls and it has it’s own demands.   However, I am here to explain why it has been so long since I have been here and to talk about food.  Lot’s and lot’s of food.

The easiest thing for me to do, having been absent for over two months, is to pick up where I left off.  So get ready because I have a lot to share with you.  Here goes:

Halloween brought pumpkin spice cupcakes with light cinnamon cream cheese icing and chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel icing.

Around this same time, my computer failed me and I procrastinated on taking it into the doctor (otherwise known as “Two Geeks,”) to have it fixed.  I was able to rely on Jay’s computer for a few weeks.  Luckily it was nothing major, only a bad memory.  I still hate Dell and would very much love to serendipitously inherit a Macbook Pro…any day now will do.

November appropriately awarded me a new job (my first full-time, legitimate position), just a couple weeks shy of Thanksgiving.  I am working one on one with several students, all of which, have various developmental disabilities.  I am working sort of as an instructor/mentor, helping them accomplish their goals, be active and to be more self-sufficient.  It’s all new territory for me and certainly has it’s challenges and frustrations but also has its good days, where I feel I have made a significant impact on someone’s life.    This is another reason I was so M.I.A, but I know, I know, it is not an excuse.

November and December also brought a wealth of new kitchen gadgets and cookware, several of which, I have coveted for years.

This incredibly lucky girl got:

  • An unbelievably generous gift from my best friend Kelley, a Le Creuset stoneware cooking/baking set in beautiful cobalt blue, including a square casserole dish, a rectangular one, an oval one and some adorable, mini round casserole dishes with lids.  This gift came at the perfect time, just before Thanksgiving and was definitely put to great use.
  • A stunning Le Creuset cast iron enameled 6 quart Dutch oven in Jamaica Blue (which was a birthday present from me to myself).
  • An awesome pancake griddle from my dear friend Donna, which I can’t wait to make blueberry pancakes on.
  • A potato ricer, perfect for easy mashed potatoes and making gnocchi!
  • A gorgeous milk green glass hobnail cake stand, which I intend to use this week, when I bake a Devil’s Food Cake with Angel Frosting (from the new cookbook, Baked Explorations).
  • A cake slicer/leveler, which I will also excitedly use on aforementioned cake.
  • A MICROPLANE, finally!
  • Last, but not least, perhaps the fairest of them all:  a long awaited Artisan series 5-Quart 10 Speed Kitchenaid mixer in “ice!”

In addition to all of these new toys, I have also gotten to reap the benefits of a brand new Cuisinart Slow Cooker – a Christmas gift Jay received (lucky us)!  I did not score so poorly by the way of cookbooks/food writing books either, this holiday.  The Essential New York Times Cookbook, How I Learned to Cook, Will Write For Food, and Chefs of the Triangle – what an especially perfect gift.

Not sure what I did to deserve all of this, but I am eternally grateful!

November and December also brought new Food52 cooking challenges and creations, including a Sweet Potato Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Brown Sugar Bourbon Glaze, Pumpkin Semifreddo with Ganache and Candied Pepitas.

I also crossed a milestone when I hosted my first Thanksgiving meal (for my sister, her boyfriend, our dad and grandparents, here in Greensboro) and with great trepidation and intimidation, roasted my very first turkey.  Okay, so it wasn’t an entire turkey, just the breast – but the breast was 10 pounds!  It definitely seemed like it was a whole turkey.  The entire event was truly (and thankfully) a great success.  I was terrified the turkey would be under or overdone and after reaching the four hour mark, I began to take it’s temperature every five minutes, monitoring it closely like a first time mother with a sick child.  I also made whipped bourbon maple mashed sweet potatoes with a brown sugar pecan streusel, cranberry pomegranate sauce (also a first time for me), stuffing (with sourdough bread, dried cherries, cranberries, celery, onion, apple, pecans and herbs), we had my granny’s famous mashed potatoes, which are the silkiest, richest mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted and we had rolls, green beans cooked with ham, a black forest cake (a labor of love and not the greatest attempt but beautiful nonetheless), bourbon chocolate pecan pie, pumpkin cheesecake with bourbon pecan sauce, and a pretty but inedible blackberry apple pie (which I intend to try again this summer and get it right).  It was SO much food, but all delicious.

December was full of other sweets and treats, including: the insanely addictive Sticky Toffee Pudding (which I’m pretty much obsessed with), Smoked Almond Turtles (which I think will have to become a Christmas tradition, as they made for delectable, fun and easy Christmas gifts), Chewy Sugar Cookies (which will also have to be a new Christmas tradition) – YUM, my great grandmother’s fudge, and her coffee cakes (that we always make on Christmas Eve and have for breakfast Christmas morning).  It’s a wonder I haven’t turned into a balloon of sugar and butter!

We also broke in the new Dutch Oven with some classic Coq au Vin, which was quite apropos and recently made Julia Child’s Chicken with Port Wine, Cream and Mushrooms – a really tasty, savory dish but far too high maintenance for our tastes.

I have yet to (embarrassingly) do a recap of our great summer road trip, our recent long weekend trip to Portland Maine, mine and Cecelia’s dinner party and our most recent trips to Miami and Savannah.  All in good time though and certainly in the next post, since I have already written a novel.

So what to expect with the new year?  A blog makeover, more posts (my goal is at least one a week), and more recipes.  A friend of mine, well-versed in graphic and web design is going to be meeting with me to plan out a complete blog makeover, since I’ve been displeased with the aesthetics for some time now and clueless as to what I should do about it.  Lately, I have also been toying with the idea of instating a “Slow Cooker Sundays” and “Meatless Mondays,” though it might work better with our schedules to slow cook during the week.  I just liked the ring of it.  So here is to a new year of a better blog, more travel and adventure, new restaurants,  new cooking challenges and many more kitchen escapades.  Happy New Year!

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