Catchup.com – uh, November?

Helloooo, blog land! And by that I mean, helloooo Mom (thanks for reading!). I had planned to do Blog-Tober, where I post every day. Then I was all “well, I’ll do Blog-Vember, since I missed Blog-Tober.” And then, I did nothing.

For the first time since I started carving out this little corner of the internet, I let an entire month go by without a single post. I know you’re all feeling the pained sadness that comes with the dearth of my sparkling wit, my poignant and thoughtful social commentary, and my profound and seemingly endless well of wisdom. But, wait no more, my preciouses. I’m hear to fill you in on what’s been happening at Camp AudPodge.

And that’s basically almost nothing.

Mid-October to pretty much yesterday was spent doing the following:

  • helping one of my best good Sydney pals prep for her big move to Queensland
  • moping after said best good Sydney pal did move
  • re-watching all of Mad Men
  • moping after some bad times for family and friends
  • mystery virus that zapped every ounce of energy from me for 3 weeks
  • not writing
  • not reading
  • riding a fucking delightful wave of hormones, thanks to birth control weaning
  • playing the same level on Super Mario Brothers for a week straight
  • re-watching all of Dance Moms
  • spending a lot of time taking photos of my cat

Only Mildly Depressed.com: Sometimes, it’s been a few days and you’re just more tired than you’ve ever been. And sometimes you realise there’s just a lot of shit stacking up on you, near you, around you, and you aren’t sorting through what’s important and what’s not important very well anymore, so you just stop sorting through it all and stare at the piles with so many feelings of overwhelmment fux-ulation (my very own made up feeling) that you just stop sorting through anything.

There was this article on Thought Catalogue that discussed self care and how it’s not just taking a sea salt scrub in a luxurious bubble bath while watching Netflix and eating brownies. Self-care should be more about daily maintenance, the little things we neglect when we’re just trying to get shit done. Like, keeping track of your budget so you know how much money you’re spending. Running the dishwasher before you go to bed so you have dishes for the next day. Getting off the couch for 30 mins a day. Saying no or asking for help when you’re tapped out. Doing your laundry once a week so it doesn’t pile up. Taking a shower. Not calling 2 coffees and 8 Lindor Chocolate Truffles lunch. When I go through a depressive stage, my daily maintenance goes out the window. And that’s what’s happened. In fact the only thing I kept up with was laundry, and that’s because I wear my favourite pairs underwear first and all the pairs are in the hamper by the end of the week and sometimes you just need to wear your goddamn favourite underpants and nothing else will suffice and NO ONE can stop you from making this a much bigger deal than it actually is.

So, I took a mental health day from work, and spent a 3 day weekend with my Get Your Shit Together Book getting my shit together. I caught up with my budget and habit trackers and shit. I started seeing my counsellor again. I got a recommendation for a licensed clinical psychologist and I’ll start seeing them in January. I have a meeting with the nutritionist at work this week, and she’s going to help me organise grocery shopping and meal planning like a real adult (no more chocolate lunches) and help me organise  pilates/barre/weight lifting classes. I wrote a whole page last week, after 25+ days of zilch. Last week was much sunnier than the past 6 weeks have been, so I’m hoping shit is on an upswing.

Humble brag time: I’m patting myself on the back, because if I’ve only achieved one thing this year, it’s getting better at intervening with myself when I’m in a downed out place. My depressive episodes are becoming shorter, because (lightbulb) reaching out for help, helps. It’s taken years to get to the point where within a couple weeks I can admit “I’m sad and overwhelmed, and I need help.” I’ll keep working on it, and with any hope I’ll be able to work it into a few weeks to a few days. So keep this in mind guys: Don’t lose hope. Help is just like AA, it works if you work it.

So yes, riveting. But in my slothness I did manage to maintain a very small semblance of a social life, do some driving, spend every single dollar I earned, and knock off some superficial and financially unnecessary totally important projects. Oh, and Joel made Thanksgiving. Oh, and we put up the tree. And did I mention that one page I wrote? Good things.

And here are some pics:

Bed makeover.com: We decided to invest some money in our bed, ie. buy good quality, breathable sheets and blankets for summer, and pillows and mattress toppers that won’t destroy our spines, hips, knees. This makes my life, because (as abundantly documented here) there’s not much I love more than buying new bedding.

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Before: hot mess express
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too much money a sound investment
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Heck yeah, egg crate foam mattress topper topped with pillow/microbead mattress topper (we can’t afford a new mattress because if we’re going to buy a new mattress, we’re going to get a Queen size which means a new bed frame and more new bedding and a bigger apartment, which means $$$$$$$, so now we’re just working with what we have. And two toppers = hella comfortable)
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After: heaven pile of 100% linen bedding and new pillows and cushions (including a memory foam side sleeper (A+)

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I also got sick and tired of not having a night stand with drawers, so I picked up some new night stands that look like they were taken off the set of Mad Men, and make the room look cleaner. I underestimated how heavy the night stands would be (the boxes they came in looked small), so I ended up needing to take a cab from the store that’s a 10 minute walk away from the apartment. Whoops.

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Et voila!

Operation: Make the bedroom a better place is slowly coming together. The bed is incredibly cozy, and I never want to leave it. We had to take the doona (or comforter) out of the duvet cover because it’s summer and TOO DAMN HOT, but once winter comes around things will be fluffy again.

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Pancake approved.

SNES Classic.com

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What was supposed to be a casual browse through EB Games ended up being a trip to my childhood and being reunited with the last video game console I was mildly good at. It comes with 21 pre-installed games! Joel kicked my ass royally at Mario Kart (I fucking hate Mario Kart), we were evenly matched at Street Fighter, and I get stuck on the same Super Mario levels I did when I was 9. I got calluses on my thumbs the first weekend we had it. It’s the greatest.

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Holy Throwback, Batman

Pancake Continues to be Adorable Little Bear-Cat.com

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dat faaaace

Eating Good Shit.com

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Brown sugar baked pork chops baked with apples, onions, and spicy brussels sprouts. Served on cous cous. +10
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Best Brunch Buddy
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cocktails + recliner chairs + free popcorn + AC + awesome movie = best Sunday
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Yakisoba!
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Homemade Coffee Cake: Tasted better than it looked, promise!
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I went to brunch with Casey and only ordered sides. It was everything I wanted it to be.
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Joel is a chicken crumb master. I can’t even. I want to eat this everyday. 
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Another one, because this is one of my favourite meals of the year.
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As you can see, I heart brunch as much as I heart my friends who also heart brunch. Also revamped love for poached eggs on avocado toast. #millenialeating

Seriously Pancake is so damn cute.com

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sun baked fluff pile

Getting My Shit Together.com

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New  planners = new lease on life

Things I Love.com

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Saturdays with Pancake
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Favourites ❤
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Early summer is the prettiest

I’m Not Kidding Pancake is Stupid Cute.com: She’s coming around to us a lot more since we found a brand of canned cat food she likes, and since we let her drink from the running bath tap more often. Apparently the way to her heart is through her stomach.

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Just sleeping with her head lightly resting on her paws. Stahhhhhp

I Wrote A Whole Page.com Slow and steady wins the race. Slow and steady as a glacier moving through frozen water wins the race. I can do it. More on my writing struggles and how I publicly gave myself a deadline of one year to finish my book in a later post.

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But I wrote a whole page!

Thanksgiving.com In true Audrey style, I remembered Thanksgiving the day before. I started to plan a quick little dinner, when Joel told me not to worry about it. The next day, he planned dinner, cleaned the apartment, bought groceries to make said dinner, started to prepare it, and then I unexpectedly had to stay late at work. And then he unexpectedly got called into work, and had to work late. So we put our dinner plans on hold for the next night.

When I got home from work, the apartment was sparkling and Joel had made a stupid cute Thanksgiving card for me. Staaaaaahp!

The next night we had a lemon and herb roast chicken, buttery mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and American Style Green Bean Casserole (he spent quite a time hunting down all the Australian equivalent ingredients, only to realise my mom had sent them to us back in May. whoops!). Everything was beyond delicious, and I love him for taking the time and effort to make Thanksgiving special. He’s the best.

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My 2/3 scratch pie, and Joel’s sweet card. I made the filling from scratch (what a process!) but the crust and whipped cream were store bought. Next time I go full-from-scratchness.
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You can’t see because they’re out of focus, but those potatoes are drowning in butter (love)
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carving the roast beast
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food coma

When Joel opened the can of cream of mushroom soup, Pancake freaked out and thought we were opening canned cat food. It was then that we had the crushing realization that we forgot to give her Thanksgiving. WTF! So we fed her little pieces of chicken and it seemed to make up for it.

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also food coma
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Thankful for pie. And my totes profesh whipped cream decorating skillz

Things I Love.com

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.com Every year, our tree gets better. And I’m really loving our tree this year, guys.

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How to Keep Your Cat From Eating the Base of Your Christmas Tree
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Mench on a Bench (missing his bench)
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Pancake wasn’t into the whole tree thing.

DRIVING BY MYSELF.com I made the 15 minute journey to my local Ikea and back, and parallel parked, all by myself and I didn’t have a panic attack. I am very excited.

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I did it! All by myself.

Things I Really Love.com I love Joel. Having an understanding, supportive, and caring partner who makes you belly laugh and pushes you to be a better person and who brings you coffee in the morning is the best thing in the world. 1,000 pairs of sweatpants on a 1,000 couches with 1,000 favourite snacks in front of a 1,000 of my favourite movies couldn’t come close to making me as happy as you do. Thank you.

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❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

 

Annnnd you’re all caught up. Right in time for the end of the year post. WHERE THE HELL DID 2017 GO?!

xo,
Auds

Comfort food, ch. 3: Oatmeal Turners

Ok, so I know oatmeal isn’t exciting. And I know a lot of people could careless. But let me put this out there: I freakin’ love oatmeal. Yes, I am a living on the edge wild child for the fibre treat. I love hot porridge, I love oatmeal skin products, I love the way it feels to sift through a bag of oats with my hands, and I love to fucking destroy a plate of oatmeal cookies.

The oatmeal cookie and all it’s simplistic glory calls to the Midwestern genetics in me that my mom has worked so tirelessly to destroy (but somethings can’t be helped; this love of sweat pants and trashy TV didn’t evolve on its own, Mom). They’re filling, but not too sweet, so you can eat about a million of them before you feel sick. And, you can convince yourself that since it’s oatmeal, butter, and brown sugar, you’re basically eating a bowl of oatmeal. That makes them a breakfast food. Aw yeah. But more than that, oatmeal cookies remind me of dad’s mom, Gramma.

My Gramma Turner was known for a few things: her incredible piano skillz (she had her Master’s Degree in Piano Performance and owned two black Steinway baby grand pianos and a room FULL of sheet music), her swift intelligence, her quilting talent, her art and calligraphy, buying us amazing toys and “forcing” us to do crafts (damnit I wish somone would force me to do crafts now); but she was not known for her cooking. I can’t blame her, she was born and raised in the mid-west, famous for Mayonaise and meatloaf. But these cookies. They made me say gat-damn. 

She had this recipe that just killed. I’ve never had a cookie that tastes like my Gramma’s cookies. They were basic oatmeal cookies, but they were white — which is weird. And they had this taste to them that I’ve never been able to replicate. It was like a raw cookie dough taste, rich, savory, but fully baked. It was plain, but it was haunting.

I couldn’t get enough of them. And whenever we’d visit, she’d always make a batch just for me, and keep them in a big, round, blue tin on the top of the fridge. She’d only let me have two at a time, and it drove me crazy. And I’d get in trouble when she realized I had snuck in there and eaten a handful. #worthit We have her recipe and have tried to make them a few times, but they don’t taste the same. By the time I had the interest to sit down and talk recipes with her, she was deep in the throws of dementia. And then she passed away. Whatever secret ingredient or method she had, she kept a secret.

Enter: Oatmeal Turners.

They’re a hybrid of my Gramma’s cookies, and my mom’s Exceptionally Badass Oatmeal Cookies. They’re fluffy, soft, rich, delicious little oatmeal bites, and they’re the closest cookies I’ve come to my Gramma’s. Every time I make them, it’s like a trip back in time. With one bite, I’m 7 years old, and sitting in my Gramma’s sunporch in Lexington, Kentucky, playing with our Barbie Dream House, waiting for her and my mom to go shopping so I can sneak more cookies.

So get a gallon of milk, make these cookies, and have a good time. You won’t regret it. Fun fact: I’ve also made these Vegan for my plant-friendly pals by using unbleached sugar, and swapping the eggs for Arrow Root powder + water, and the butter for canola based margarine. And they’re still good. Like they always say, getchu a cookie that can do both.

Here’s the low down:

Cast of Players

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ACT 1

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Combine the butter, sugars, vanilla and almond extract
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In a separate bowl, mix the flour, almond meal, salt, baking soda and coconut
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I wisk it all together because it makes me feel fancy
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Cream the wet stuff, 2-3 mins
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beat in eggs one at a time
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SLOWLY mix in the dry stuff (or dump it all in at once. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. It just depends on how much you like cleaning up flour bombs.) Also, scrape scrape scrape to make sure the flour mix is well incorperated.
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The best part of baking is licking cleaning the beaters.

ACT II

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mix in the oats
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realise that mixing this with a utensil is futile, and use your hands — trust me, it’s the easiest way to go about it
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et voila. This is also the stage where you add goodies like white chocolate chips and walnuts, but I opted for classic flavour this time
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using a 1/4 cup measure, make big cookie balls. I use grease paper instead of a buttered pan because it makes the bottoms come out perrrrrrfect
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bake em up! at 325*F//260*C
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I use my trusty “10 mins first” and then “3 mins more” method until they’re done

ACT III

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The trick is to leave them just slightly undercooked. It helps to retain the fluffy softness, and super rich flavours. After about 13 mins, the skewer should come out clean, but slightly damp. That’s when you know they’re done. They’ll be ridiculously soft, so be careful when taking them off the tray (as evidenced by that dented cookie on the left). As they cool, they come more durable.
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Dat bottom. The bottom should be golden brown like the top. If the cookies overbake, then they’ll become extra crunchy when they cool. Like a Nature Valley bar.
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Enjoy!
Oatmeal Turners by Kim Turner
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flower
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup shaved coconut
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • optional: 1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • optional: 1 cup white chocolate chips
  1. combine butter, sugars, vanilla + almond, set aside.
  2. combine flour, almond meal, salt and baking soda, and set aside.
  3. cream together butter and white and brown sugars.
  4. add eggs one at a time.
  5. slowly mix in dry ingredients.
  6. slowly mix in oatmeal and coconut and other mix-ins (pecans, white chocolate chips)
  7. use 1/4 cup scoop to make balls of oatmeal dough deliciousness, and distribute them on baking sheets
  8. bake for 8-10 minutes at 325*F//260*C
  9. remove immediately from baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack.
Mom’s pro-tips:
  • you aren’t baking successfully unless you’ve dirtied up every measuring device you own.
  • pull the cookies out when they’re almost done. They’ll continue baking when you bring them out of the oven, and it maintains the soft texture/crispy edge harmony.
  • For every baking sheet you bake, you get one spoon full of raw dough to eat.
  • Therefore, use every baking sheet you own.

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go eat the rest of these cookies, because I had an IUD fitted today and my uterus is furious with me. But more on that later.

How do you bake oatmeal cookies? Let me know!

xo

Comfort food, ch 2: Sweet Metric System Casserole Cookies

I love cookies. Or biscuits*, as my British based, adopted homeland calls them. I love pies and desserts, but my most favourite dessert is soft, buttery, fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and creamy vanilla ice cream. /droooooool

Continue reading “Comfort food, ch 2: Sweet Metric System Casserole Cookies”

Comfort Food, ch. 1: Bolognese for Days

Comfort eating – my favourite sport. I have a few meals in my rotation for when times get tough, or when I just need that ultimate food hug. Yes, it’s unhealthy to use food as a coping mechanism. But we aren’t here to discuss my unhealthy coping mechanisms – that’s another post all together. We’re here to talk about the food that takes you to a safe space. The meals that give you an island in a sea of bullshit.

My most craved meals are almost all from childhood, and they’re almost all amazingly unhealthy – chicken enchiladas, biscuits ‘n gravy, bbq chicken with yellow rice, brisket sandwiches, french toast, I could go on in a gravy coated, cheese topped dream.

Today, though, I’m all about bolognese. Full disclosure: I love my mom’s spaghetti sauce. It’s pretty damn good and my #1 meal of all time is her baked chilli spaghetti (coming soon!) But this sauce isn’t my mom’s recipe. I happened upon this deliciousness when I was older and living out of state on my own for the first time.

My sister’s God-brother’s wife, Mandy (yes) posted this recipe she got from her friend, and claimed it was life changing. I was an Extra Super Cooking Novice (I have since become a Kinda OK Cooking Novice) and had always thought bolognese was intimidating and too advanced for me. But Mandy made it look easy. I book marked the recipe until the one random night that I was gutsy enough to try it.

Sheeeeeew – it was incredible then, and it’s incredible now. It’s even good when I forget/swapped some ingredients (read: forgot to buy the right ones). It was the first real “adult” or “more than 3 ingredients” meal I attempted, and it was a raving success. And now, it holds a special place in my rapidly clogging arteries. Joel thinks we should have it once a week.

So, here’s the low down, complete with inevitable Audrey Mayhem (see above about forgetting/swapping ingredients) –

The ingredients:

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*aud note: I forgot to add 1/2 cup parsley. I have only ever remembered to buy it the first time I made this recipe. (Way to go, Audrey). Don’t worry, it’s not crucial.

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cube that shit up – don’t skip the pancetta. It’s next level.
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*aud note: once I was out of milk, so I used 1/2 cup of heavy cream with a spoon full of water to thin it out. It was really good
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*aud note: I’ve used $30 wine and I’ve used $5 wine to make this – and it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to my gutter pallet.
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*aud note: this is a picture of pork/veal mince because it was on special for $5 and I was all “SOLD.” But let’s pretend it’s beef mince, because beef is fattier and doesn’t have that same “I killed a baby cow” taste. Also there’s no need for additional pork, because you have pancetta. Do as I say, not as I post.

 

Step 1: find some good trash TV to cook to. You’ve got some chopping to do.

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Judge awaaaay

Step 2: cook the onions in some olive oil for 2 minutes.

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*aud note: It’s easiest to make this in a deep sauce pan, like a dutch oven. But I’ve been making this meal for 5 years and I still don’t own a good sauce pot. I most often make it in our wok. Just make sure the pan/pot is deep, because you have a lot of ingredients to add.
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For example, you might start browning the onions in your frying pan before you forget that you won’t be able to stir it all up without spilling out the sides so you switch to the wok.

Step 3: Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes

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Step 4: Pour yourself a glass of the $5 wine. Hold out hope that this is the one $5 bottle of wine that defies the odds and doesn’t taste like room-temperature, freshman year of college bad decisions.

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*aud note: it will taste like room temperature, freshman year of college bad decisions.

Step 5. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes

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This is the best step. If only this was smell-0-vision.

Step 6: Add the beef and cook until brown

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Step 7: Add the remaining ingredients

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Joel gets really uncomfortable that there’s milk involved. To be honest, I was too the first time around. But once you go milk, you won’t go… bilk? Yeah.
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Yum, slop!
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Give it a big, big, stir, and watch the magic happen.

Step 8: THE HARDEST PART – let it simmer for at least 45 mins.

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The longest 45 mins ever. I’ve eaten it after 20 mins or so, but it’s better the longer it sits. In fact, it’s even better the next day.
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1 hour later… yessssss

Step 9: NOSH

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We’ve tried it with a variety of pasta, and anything you want is good. I like fusilli, Joel likes linguini – you can see who won this round. We’ve also served it without pasta, open face on toasted garlic bread – choice.

This recipe makes between 5-8 servings, depending on how big your servings are. It’s wonderful, complex, creamy and savoury, and I suggest you try it tonight. Because I’m off the store for more pancetta…

Best Bolognese Ever
From M Cubed

Makes 5-8 servings

Ingredients
– olive oil
– 1 large yellow onion, diced
– 3 stalks celery, diced
– 1 carrot, diced
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– ¼ pound pancetta, chopped
– 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
– 1 cup dry white wine
– 1 cup whole milk
– 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
– 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
– ¼ teaspoon red pepper
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 tablespoon dried
– ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
– 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
– ¼ teaspoon black pepper
– ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
– ¼ cup grated Parmesan (plus more for sprinklage)


Directions
1. In a Dutch oven (sigh. Or deep sauce pan, or wok, or something stove-top oriented that’s deep), over medium heat, heat the oil.
2. Cook the onion in heated oil for 2 minutes.
3. Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes
5. Add the beef and cook until brown
6. Add the wine and the remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes or until sauce is thick.
7. Serve with fave type of pasta and top with shredded parmesan cheese.
8. For garlic bread with an extra kick – melt butter with some garlic powder and a pinch of paprika. Dip the surface of the bread in the melted butter mix, lay on a pan and toast until the edges are brown. Delish.
*I’ve been told that this sauce freezes and re-heats very well, for all you make a head types.

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving

I’ve wanted to do a Friendsgiving style dinner since maybe before I moved to Sydney. But I’ve just never had the wherewithal or the space to get it together. I mean, my first Thanksgiving here literally snuck up on me the day before, and was thusly celebrated with little fan fare. The second one was better thought out, but as we were in a tiny heat box apartment with only 3 plates and 2 chairs, there wasn’t any space to entertain. But, as luck would have it, at Joel’s exhibition, Hugh (our master chef pal) and I started to loosely plan a big Thanksgiving dinner.

In mid-October we remembered we were planning a dinner (actually, Hugh remembered, because I’m absent minded professor), so we picked a date, set a menu, made a plan, and on Friday night, we made it happen. With Hugh at the ham helm and the grill station, and me with the mayonnaise and bacon salad (America) we fed 17 of our pals and killed many 3 for 1 bottles of wine. It was fan-damn-tastic.

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When I think of Thanksgiving food, I want cheesy green bean casserole, heaps of mashed potatoes and gravy, piles of turkey, stuffing, etc etc. But when I think of cooking and eating a meal of cream, cheese, starch and gravy in the air conditioner-less heat of an Australian November, it makes me want to curl up and die. So we adapted the traditional meals for something more light and summery — but still paid homage to the fat filled, cheese topped, heavy, heavy style traditional noshes. What we ate:

  • Ham with pineapple/lime/chipotle glaze with a chipotle apple sauce
  • Glazed and grilled carrots, and squash and broccolini (topped with pickled carrots)
  • Green beans tossed with almonds and pickled onions
  • Red Skin potato and bacon salad
  • Corn bread from scratch
  • Homemade pumpkin pie with spiced whipped cream
  • Mixed berry cobbler
  • Honorable mention but didn’t make it to the table – buttermilk rolls and mini bourboun pecan tarts.

The meal didn’t come together without its share of Audrey-style mayhem – I was meant to do a big shop on Wednesday night so my Thursday night would be totally free for baking, but Glued to My Phone Election Night Blues got the better of me.

I went to the store, but it was only to buy bacon for dinner and to cry in the aisles like a basket case. So on Thursday, I did my big shop. 90 minutes and 30lbs of groceries later, I was exhausted. At 8PM Joel took command and made most of the corn bread (ok, he really made all of it but I read the recipe to him and grated the cheese and pointed out that I forgot to add the creamed corn, so I’m taking credit, too). Around 9 PM I started boiling the potatoes and putting the pie together. By 10PM the pie corn bread was done, the pie was baking, and the potatoes were still hard, and I was counting how many hours of sleep I’d need to be up at 6:30AM and not feel like a zombie for work. By 10:45PM the potato salad was done, the pie was burnt to a crisp (fucking *F to *C), the buttermilk rolls were scratched, and I was all “fuck it.” and went to bed.

But, the meal was still a success! Hugh is a genius with food, and it’s a meal I wish I was still eating. Here are some moderately good pics – mostly blurry and mostly forgetting key elements like the green beans and the whipped cream gun, but some pics are better than none:

It really was a fantastic night – friends, wine, great food, laughs, and even some interpretive dancing. Thanksgiving is intended to be a day where you reflect on your good fortunes, and for showing gratitude for those good fortunes. I felt the gratitude. And I felt the love. It was a night to not dwell on the negatives (Trump), and it was a night of reassurance that not everything is dark and terrible. As I looked down the table filled with people and candles and conversation and food being passed around and everything just felt – good. If I were the Grinch, this is where my heart would break the frame.

I am incredibly thankful for my Sydney family, for Joel’s friends who have never treated me like a stranger and who I now consider to be my friends, too. I’m thankful for my life here. I’m even thankful for this year, even though it’s been so hard, it’s been so eye-opening and revelatory to support systems I didn’t realise I had.

I’m thankful for the life I live, and I am thankful for the people around me.

And I’m thankful for that ham. Seriously, it was damn delish.

On the Subject of Pancakes

I hit one of those “I’m a Grownup” goal posts this week that I didn’t know existed and thus took me completely by surprise: my pancakes taste better than restaurant pancakes.

A little back story: last Saturday night, I had a craving for buttery syrup covered pancakes, crispy break like glass in your mouth American style bacon, and extra crispy outside soft on the inside salty hash brown patties. It was one of those “wow if I don’t get this exact meal right now I am going to burn this place to the ground” cravings. However, being that it was 8:30 PM and I had just eaten dinner, 3 cookies, a bowl of cereal, and was working my way through a chai tea made entirely with hot milk, I wasn’t about to walk out to the store to gather ingredients. And by that I mean I couldn’t convince Joel that this was an emergency and he needed to go out and get bacon and hash browns for me. Butthole. So I vowed to wake up on Sunday morning and have my pancake brunch.

I woke up with determination, even though it was raining. I knew where I wanted to go, and I had cash burning in my pocket, and it wasn’t until I was half way out the door that I realised the place I wanted to go to was closed on Sundays. On Sundays! The high holy day of Brunch. The brunchiest of Brunch days. No big loss, I thought, since we live in a super hip gentrified neighbourhood and you basically can’t spit without passing hitting a cafe.

But, spit all I want (which I don’t, that’s gross), I walked around for half an hour and couldn’t find a single place that sold pancakes. Womp womp. So I cut my loss and headed back to the grocery store to buy bacon* and frozen hash browns, and just make the pancakes myself from scratch. I also passed a stand selling brownie-cookie sandwiches and I bought three for Joel and I to sample. Whoooops. I was too stuffed on cookies to make the pancakes that day, but Monday was a pancake dream come true. And with crispy American style bacon and the dream hash browns. It was worth the sodium/diabetic coma I fell into and couldn’t pull myself out of.

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A few days later, Joel and I met a couple of friends for breakfast, at the afore mentioned inexplicably closed on Sundays cafe. I ordered the pancakes, which came with a side of home made mascarpone. I was really excited to get the professional pancakes, after eating my home made ones for most of the week (it’s been a fat week). And as the plate was put in front of me, they couldn’t have looked more beautiful: perfectly round, golden, full and even, lightly dusted with powered sugar… delish.

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Hello beautiful.

But as I dove in, something just wasn’t right. They were a bit dry. And the edges weren’t crispy. And I made it 2/3 of the way through the stack and still wasn’t feeling that pancake joy. And it hit me: my pancakes are better. 

I patted myself on the back, because this is honestly the first time I’ve ever felt something I made at home was better than something I ordered in a restaurant. And the next morning, I made pancakes again. They’re rarely perfect circles, or even, but they’re amazing. They’re soft and rich on the inside, crispy on the outside. They’re rich enough to make you feel sick if you eat a giant plate of them, but tantalizing enough to make you never stop eating. And I sat there eating with a smug smile of satisfaction on my face, feeling like I achieved something in this world.

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Don’t fuck with my pancakes, guys – they’re awesome.

Audrey’s “Better Than Restaurant Pancakes” Pancakes

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp white sugar
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter milk (look, you can use 1 1/4 cup of any milk you want, but this combo is perf)
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)

In a large bowl, sift together all dry ingredients.

Make a well in the center of the bowl, and add wet ingredients

Whisk together until the batter is smooth

In a skillet on medium high heat, melt a bit of butter to coat the pan

Once the skillet is hot, scoop the batter out into the pan using a 1/4 cup as a scoop. I like to make small pancakes – tiny pancakes make me feel better about eating 6 at a time. But you can easily make giant ones using a 1 cup scoop.

Fry the pancake until you start to see slight bubbling around the edges or on top of the pancake, taking care not to burn. With small pancakes, this typically takes around 3-4 minutes. Flip to the other side and fry until cooked.

Serve with butter and syrup. Or whatever your heart desires – I’m not here to judge, only to guide.

Excess batter can be stored in an air tight container for like, a week probably. Not that it ever lasts that long.

I want to chop up strawberries into the batter to make strawberry vanilla pancakes and serve it with whipped cream. Or experiment with using cake flour instead of All Purpose. What do you think? Share any pancake thoughts that make you feel smug. THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS YOU GUYS.

xo

 

*I all but stopped craving bacon here because it’s just not the same. But, I found out that if I fry Australian bacon in olive oil, it gets super crispy. It takes me back home in a weird, wonderful, beautifully American way.

 

 

Good Gravy, episode 1

I love my parents – they’re hilarious and adorable and they’re best friends and huge nerds, and they compliment each other in a million different ways. But my favourite yin/yang quality of theirs has to do with my favourite breakfast: biscuits* and gravy.

My mom is the cook in the family. She reads cookbooks for fun, re-creates recipes after eating a dish at a restaurant, and has a vault of self-learnt recipes that impossibly blends complete trash food and gourmet dining. With the exception of something we now call “Corn Loaf”, a corn and cheese side dish that was supposed to be a fluffy Mexican corn dish that somehow went wrong and solidified mass of corn and goo that we could almost cut in slices, I can’t remember a single dish my mom has made that I haven’t liked. No one makes a grilled cheese sandwich or a plate of scrambled eggs like my mom. And I’ve tried for years to replicate my all time famous dish of hers, Baked Chili Spaghetti, to no avail. I’ve been asking for about ever for her to write these recipes for me, but I always get the same answer – “I’m not sure – I just make it. Just take X and X and X and go with it!” She’s a jerk.

My dad, on the other hand, passed his cooking skills down to me. We both need detailed instructions and tools. But we both looooove to eat. So it all balances out.

One of the biggest things I miss about living with my parents is the food. Particularly the big Sunday or holiday breakfasts. “Breakfast Skillets,” which are individual skillets layered with a fried egg, hash browns, sausage gravy, and topped with cheese and crumbled bacon. French toast fried perfectly with crispy edges and a soft center and topped with maple syrup and powdered sugar; Bacon and egg fried rice; but the best of it all is biscuits and sausage gravy.

Mom makes a helluva good gravy. I’ve never actually seen her make it – it just always appeared at the same time as the scrambled eggs did – both hot and ready to eat, with only one pan being used. It’s a mystery to me. For all the cooking talent my mom has, she can’t form a biscuit to save her life. They come out lumpy, malformed, a bit like a gargoyle fist – if that gargoyle fist was slammed in a door a few times. They break when you touch them and they’re pretty dense.

That’s where my dad comes in – his gravy may taste floury or be too watery, but his biscuits are always geometrically perfect with flat golden tops, and have the most perfect smooth and fluffy texture. I remember watching him make the dough, flouring the counter top, rolling the dough with a rolling pin, and using the same cup he always used to stamp out the biscuits. It’s the only cooking ritual I remember my dad having in the kitchen – besides the giant bowl he used to eat cereal.

With my parent’s powers combined, they make one awesome sauce breakfast. And it’s just one of those little anecdotes about their relationship that I think is too adorable.

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I was looking through our fridge this morning and noticed our bacon was about to go off, and I immediately thought about making gravy with it. Even though I never made bacon before. So I called the Breakfast Masters for a crash course in Gravy 101 – what kind of spices to use, what kind of utensils, and basically the most important aspect of gravy – which is continuous whisking.

Now, this is for bacon gravy, which isn’t as good as sausage gravy – (which I’m attempting next week), so this is an abbreviated method (mostly so I won’t forget when I try again next week)

Step 1: Fry lots of bacon. Sing the bacon some sweet songs to encourage all the grease to collect in the pan (you only have to do this in Australia, where the bacon isn’t NEARLY as greasy as it is the US)

Step 2: Once bacon is at desired doneness (extra crispy for me, please – I want that shit to shatter in melty bacony goodness), remove from pan and wrap in aluminium foil to keep warm.

Step 3: On medium heat, melt some butter (see above note about Bacon not being greasy enough)

Step 4: Sprinkle a couple table spoons of flour over the butter and whisk that up with either a whisk, a wooden spoon, or the bottom of a flat rubber spatula – whatever won’t scratch up the pan

Step 5: Whisking constantly, cook the flour and butter for a few minutes until it’s really clumpy. If you don’t cook it long enough the flour will taste raw.

Step 6: Add milk – I eyeballed it by adding 1/2 cup at at time. And whisk whisk whisk.

Step 7: Season with salt, pepper, whatever else you’d like. I threw in some cajun seasoning.

You can add more milk if it’s too thick, more flour if it’s too watery

I served mine over toast with the fried bacon. And it tasted just as good as my mom’s, which made me feel like a double champ – 1) because I tried something new and it wasn’t a disaster, and 2) because it was delish. It felt like a taste from home.

But I also feel like a world of heart clogging, thigh jiggling, gravy topped food opportunities have opened up for me – and that’s hella exciting.

Tune in next week for episode 2! We’ll see if my biscuit game is on point.

 

*I should clarify for my non-Americans that I mean scones – biscuits in the States are the equivalent of scones in Australia. The first time I mentioned biscuits and gravy at work I was met with some grossed out and confused looks.

“Like… biscuits? Covered in gravy?”
“Yeah, it’s SO good.”
“um, ok.”

 

Thankschicken

So, on Friday, Joel and I celebrated our Thanksgiving, ThanksFriday, Thankschicken. As noted earlier, I was determined to make this year’s dinner a good one, and as close to how we do it back in the States, and we succeeded – grandly! I had the planning under control – menu set and recipes bookmarked on Tuesday; shopping done on Wednesday; pie made on Thursday; on Friday, chicken cooked first, then potatoes when there’s 40 mins left, casserole and pumpkin when there’s 20 mins left. But when I got home on Friday I was hit with a wave of cramps and a PMS cloud (hooray) and everything felt out of control and I honestly felt like throwing in the towel and getting Pizza Hut. Thankfully Joel stepped in got the ball moving.

There was an overestimated guess of oven space which resulted in menu items being scrapped (so long, hasselback potatoes and take n bake bread); OMG CHICKEN WILL BE DONE IN 20 MINUTES AND I HAVEN’T MADE THE SIDES panic; panic when the chicken took an hour and a half longer than planned; a bit too much wine and a bit too much panic led to over-salting my famous green bean casserole and accidentally swapping the cheese and onion layer; a destroyed kitchen; feeling a food and wine coma so hard it felt like death was near. It definitely felt like Thanksgiving. The only things missing were a huge family fight and that one relative who gets drunk and says awkward things before he passes out in front of the football game.

And here’s what it looked like!

Thursday night pie prepping: I was going to make crust from scratch, but I decided to tone down the ambition and just use frozen. My grocery store doesn’t carry pre-made shells, but they do carry “short cut” pastry, which is square. So I just used two shells and melded them together in the corners. I didn’t get that fancy lattice look, but I had crust, so that counts. And Joel suggested we use the leftover crust and pie filling to make pumpkin pie rolls, which was basically the best idea Joel’s ever had.

I did have to run to the store at 9 PM in my pajamas and flip flops to grab eggs… sometimes planning doesn’t go exactly as planned. And sometimes the Woolies employees will look at you like you’re homeless.

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working the crust, basically am Julia Child
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Have you ever wanted to swim in something and just eat your way out?
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Pumpkin Pie rolls: Joel gets the gold star for Thanksgiving
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knife came out clean on the first try – a first

First up on Friday: lemon herb roasted chicken. I’d never roasted a chicken before, so I was incredibly nervous about getting it right, as there’s nothing worse than dry chicken. So I was messaging my parents all morning for tips, when Joel mentioned that he’d basically roasted hundreds of chickens in his time, and is a roast master. So I let him take the chicken helm. #problemsolved

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chicken bum plugs
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It’s kinda pretty, if you don’t think of it as shit stuffed inside a dead bird
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seasoning treatment
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Then we went Paula Deen on that beast #butterbath
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We thanked the chicken and honored it for being our dinner as we massaged the butter into it – anything to prevent it from drying out
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I mostly love this image because I look like a GIANT WO-MAN in a dwarf’s kitchen
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At this point I had to shove the roasting pan in – as I forgot that our roasting pan is just a wee bit bigger than our oven

We set the oven for 90 minutes and went on to other prep! Including whipped cream – last time I tried to make it here, I used thickened cream and icing sugar and whisked it for 15 minutes with nothing happening – except me eating the mixture with a spoon.

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Make sure the extra thickened cream is ice cold, add icing sugar and beat with mixer. #yayaya

 

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Then it was time to drink wine and have some hang times!

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Cheers!

When the timer for the chicken went off, we jumped up to hurriedly get the sides items made. And of course, in the time it took to get them made, put in the oven, and baked, the chicken still wasn’t done. OF COURSE NOT. And that’s when I learned a valuable lesson: roast chicken recipes tell you to tie the legs together not because it looks cool, but because it makes the chicken cook faster.

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I’m used to making double or triple batches of GB casserole – not 1/2. It was scary. And much too salty.
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Frying up the macademia nuts before throwing them in with the pumpkin to roast
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Prepping the pumpkin – more #butterbath

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When the chicken was done – almost 3 hours after we put it in – the onions at the base were incinerated, every inch of our apartment smelled of delicious roast chicken, and it was almost 10 PM (no, I didn’t want to have dinner on Saturday when we had more time to cook. I wanted it to be as close to the actual holiday as possible… even if it meant eating super late. haha)

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Master Chicken Carver – also, incinerated onions.
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Effing delicious, basically

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We ate so much between the time I got home and the time we finished dinner that there was no room for pie – something I didn’t think was actually possible.

This morning, I woke up at 4 feeling like I drank the Dead Sea, a blistering red wine headache, and the smell of roast chicken STILL hanging in every room, now making me queasy. It took a fair bit of time to clean up the kitchen (no way in hellll that it was getting done last night), but then it was time for tea and the best part of Thanksgiving: Pie for breakfast.

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Breakfast of champions

and later, the second best part of Thanksgiving: leftovers for days.

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I always spent my Thanksgivings outside of the kitchen, wine glass in hand, hanging around with relatives and snacking. So I’ve always loved it and I never understood why people hate it and get so stressed out – but now I know. If you’re in charge of the cooking, it’s pretty stressful, as I had a couple of moments when I thought “fuck, it’s all ruined” and I had Joel helping me and it was just the two of us so there was no (obvious, company oriented) pressure. I imagine it’s easier if you have two ovens and a dishwasher, but yeah. I have a new found respect for people who host. And I kinda  want to go back in time and help my mom more in the kitchen on the big day.

Maybe next year we’ll just have tacos.

I remain thankful for my supportive and loving family and friends, my new job, the roof over our heads, wi-fi, modern science, tooth brushes, the fact that I have yet to be slaughtered or kidnapped, and Joel, my biggest cheer leader and roast chicken master. I have more blessings than I can count (one being my parents sent me two boxes full of Thanksgiving food prep and two being Joel picked up both boxes from the post office).

I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving! And that everyone survived Black Friday (and didn’t steal anything out of the hands of children)

Thanksgiving – already?

I feel like it isn’t November yet. In fact, I’m still thinking it’s early October and I’m confidently telling Joel I want to plan a big Thanksgiving party this year, knowing I have 8 weeks to get my shit together.

Well, well, Thanksgiving is actually this week, and I didn’t realize it until yesterday morning. I did what I always did and filed “Big T-Day Party” away in the “this will sort itself out” pile and went about my business.

Party or no party – I am bound and determined to have a better holiday this year. Last year, I spent the first three weeks of November fruitlessly going to job interviews and fretting every day about my shrinking savings account, and I finally scored a job in the week before Thanksgiving. Needless to say, planning a big dinner was the furthest thing from my mind. I was also deeply homesick, a bit hungover, Joel was working late and drained from it, and I had no idea where to buy stuff or what to cook. So I settled on a rotisserie chicken, frozen veg, mashed potatoes, packaged gravy and a subpar box of brownies with ice cream. And tap water. Joel got home around 8 and we watched American tv on my laptop because our TV was broken. He was super cheerful and the spirit of Thanksgiving was there, but the food wasn’t.

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Chicken mash 4eva

This year, though. This year will be different. I’m a bit more savvy in the kitchen, and a bit more savvy about where to shop. I’m still not at the “make an entire Thanksgiving meal by myself” stage, but yesterday morning we thought up an awesome meal that I’m pretty excited about:

  • lemon herb roasted chicken (our oven is way too small for a turkey)
  • spinach salad with feta cheese and roast pumpkin and macadamia nuts
  • my famous green bean casserole
  • sliced & baked potatoes (my own experiment – I’m pretty excited)
  • Garlic Turkish bread with herbed butter (I thought about pull apart rolls with honey butter, but the salad is sweet and garlic Turkish bread is so good)
  • pumpkin pie for dessert

Since it’s not a holiday here, I don’t get a day off, so we’re having Thanksgiving on Friday, so I have more time to cook and hang out. A late dinner on Friday, with wine and cheese and cracker appetizers while the chicken roasts and the other dishes bake. I’m also drawing up a time line of shopping and when to bake what and fantasizing about setting the table. I’m really excited!

Last year, I just let the holidays happen to me. It was my first year doing both Thanksgiving and Christmas without my family (i.e. I didn’t have someone making my plans for me), so between work and finances they both just kinda slipped on by. This year, we’re looking forward to making them count. I love Thanksgiving, and I’m bound and determined to make this an awesome day for us.

ALL THE FINGERS CROSSED that I can stick to this plan, and we don’t end up eating KFC.

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