20 November, 2014  |   1 Comment

Thanksgiving Budget 2014

Thanksgiving 2013Next week is Thanksgiving. One of our guests is a chef, so my competitive side is coming out. I’m like that. With my guests. Stop talking Helen Jane.

Anyway, Thanksgiving Budget. I have a bad habit about prying into money matters so it’s only fair that I share some details with you. We did it back in 2011 and we’re doing it again — $260 — a huge amount of money for Thanksgiving — here’s how we’re spending out and cheaping out on the budget this year.

cranberries

Spend out

Cheap out

Wine

Table settings

$60

Yesterday I outlined how the wine money gets divvied out. I forgot to add that we always have a bottle of sparkling apple cider for the kids. They love joining in the toast. This will sate 5 grownups and one hairy dog.

$0

The kids always make something amazing for the table — plus! We have some leftover gourds from Halloween!

Turkey

Cornbread & Dinner Rolls

$70

As in 2011, I’m spending the most on our bird. This year I bought the bird for a youth group fundraiser, but our local FFA also raises turkeys for sale. Yours might too!

$5

We’ll make less expensive cornbread — and I’m not shy about telling a helpful guest that they could bring the dinner rolls.

Vegetables and fruits

Potatoes

$50

We make an extra big veggie purchase before the big day to accommodate all our sides. I make the cranberry sauce a week in advance and use the toaster oven to roast the sprouts.

$5

Mashed potato supplies will run me a little less than $5 this year. For this, I am thankful.

Cheese & Appetizers

Dessert

$15

I prioritize guests and snacks. This year we’re putting out some Franklin Teleme, spiced pecans and dried cranberries with some Nut Thins. Easy. Done.

$10

Pumpkin pie is another one of those Thanksgiving things that guests are happy to supply. As a host, I want to make sure I have ice cream, whipped cream and coffee on hand.

Day after Thanksgiving meals

Thanksgiving day meals

$35

I include the “day after” budget as well because I’m spending that cash all in one go. We like our sandwiches on bakery bread with the good bacon.

$10

On the actual Thanksgiving day, we eat cheap. Fruit or cereal for breakfast. Snacks for lunch. Save that cash for the big meal

20 November, 2014  |   3 Comments

Wine Wednesday: Thanksgiving Edition

Back in 2011 I set a Thanksgiving budget and we stuck to it. The budget’s a little less this year – about a third less – and for that we’re lucky and three cheers for Thanksgiving! Tomorrow, I’ll go through this year’s budget.

Our wine budget is now around $60 for the big day. I know! I ain’t complaining. We’re making it work with these three bottles of the wine I’ve been drinking lately for work and fun.

2013 Giesen Riesling
Giesen Riesling
I know, I know I should be drinking American to kick off this meal, but with the way things went with Lord of the Rings, it seems like New Zealand could be, like, at least part American. With a low alcohol point (12.5%) this is the perfect wine for kicking off the holidays but maintaining your cool. Good for people who say they don’t like sweet wine but secretly do. Round, floral and delicious, sip it when the kids are wrassling within eyeshot. Costs about $13.

2012 Niner Pinot Noir

niner-pinot

Costs about $30. Pinot Noir makes the millennials happy, it makes your Gen X aunt happy, it makes your snooty brother happy. This one is a great deal, coming from the on point Paso Robles region of California — from a shiny new winery. It’s balanced, it’s got a slight cranberry taste that makes Stove Top sing.

2012 Renwood Zinfandel
renwood-zin
Zinfandel wine powerhouses Renwood make American wine from a truly American grape. Their winemaker is one of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 under 40. Youth is also an American value! Bold and tasty — it works to punctuate your end of meal political “discussions.” Plus, Zinfandel is just fun to say. Costs nearly $20.

20 August, 2014  |   3 Comments

Wine Wednesday: Make This Wine Cake Recipe

Today, today I need some wine cake.
I think you might too.

Nora Lea wants the wine cake, but she can't have the wine cake

This buttery, dense yellow cake is a Napa Valley bake sale staple. It uses a yellow cake mix, but tastes so much more complex.

You don’t need fancy white wine for this — Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc is my go to wine for this recipe (it was $3.99).  I’d recommend staying away from something with any oakiness — or anything too floral.

Ingredients
Cake ingredients
1 box yellow cake mix
1 three and a half ounce box instant vanilla pudding
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs

Glaze Ingredients
1 stick butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine

Directions
Assemble your ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Grease and flour a 10″ Bundt pan.

Combine the yellow cake mix,
box of instant vanilla pudding,
white wine,
vegetable oil and
all four eggs in a large bowl and
beat with a well-muscled arm or an electric mixer.

Pour the batter into your choice of pan.

There is wine cake batter in the bundt pan.

Put the cake pan in the 350 oven for 45-50 minutes.

Check out the side of this wine cake.

About 15 minutes before the cake is done (at the 30 minute mark), make the glaze.
Stir the butter with the water, sugar and white wine over medium heat and let simmer for roughly 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
Pour a buttery, burney glaze over the cake.

Be careful, for it is sugar and it will hurt you badly if it gets on your skin.
Remove from heat. Set aside.

Remove the cake or cupcakes from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

After the cake’s cool, poke holes in the bottom (top) of the cake.

Pour 1/2 of the glaze into and around the holes. Give the cake a little time to fully absorb the glaze.

Invert the cake onto a serving dish and drizzle the rest of the glaze on the top of the cake.

We used unsweetened whipped cream for the topping – because the cake is pretty sweet with that glaze, but we wanted a pretty white top.

Then you can bring it to bocce. Or bowling. Or church. Or to a community center where people might appreciate your expertise. Or that next city council meeting. Or that peaceful protest against the militarization of our police departments. Bring this cake to that.


It’s also handsome husband approved.

18 February, 2014  |   4 Comments

Slow Cooker Lemongrass Thai Beef Recipe

We put our own slow cooker twist on this fantastic recipe from Bon Appetit. Slow cookery Thai goodness — and customizable to boot — making it perfect for picky guests.

This recipe is a departure from our more “Americanny” slow cooker recipes, but with the rice noodles and the peanuts, we’ve got ourselves our very own tasty treat. Only confirming my theory that food processors make every food better, this recipe uses the magic machine for good. Make a dry pastey mix that covers the beef while it bubbles away in the slow cooker.

If rice noodles aren’t your thing, for you Paleo people, this is great in a lettuce wrap.

Ingredients
4 lemongrass stalks, ends trimmed and outsides peeled
4 cloves garlic chopped small
1 lime’s worth of juice (recipe calls for 4 kaffir lime leaves, but I don’t know where to find those)
2 tablespoons chopped peeled ginger (about 1 inch of ginger)
1 jalapeno, chopped
3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into two inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 whole star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
8 oz. wide rice noodles
6 scallions, sliced into tiny rings
Lime wedges
1/2 cup smashed peanuts
Chopped cilantro

Directions
Take out your trusty food processor Process lemongrass, garlic, lime juice (or kaffir lime leaves), ginger, and jalapeno in a food processor until it gets like paste.

Salt and pepper the beef chunks. Brown the meat in the vegetable oil over medium-high heat, 10–15 minutes. Put the meat on a plate.

Add the lemongrass paste to the same pot you cooked the beef in, stirring often, until lemongrass gets soft, 5–8 minutes. Add star anise, cinnamon, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, and beef with any juices. Add the beef and lemongrass mixture to the slow cooker. Add about 4-6 cups water. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.

Right before serving, cook rice noodles.

Serve with lime wedges, smashed peanuts, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro and Sriacha sauce.

The recipe says this can be made 3 days ahead and saved for later. I believe it.

Thai lemongrass beef is good for you

Bon appetit indeed.

16 February, 2014  |   Comment

Meal plan this week

What we're eating this week

It’s funny, how when the week is upside down,
when we don’t eat what the meal plan prescribed,
when the car is in the shop and
the dentist appointments get missed and
we argue and
cry all the way home and
are late,
It’s when our love is Most Fierce.

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