Great Balls of Cheese

Happy Monday: Gilmore Girls, MSW & Cheese Balls

Great Balls of Cheese

Photo via Gluten Free Girl!

Happy Monday! It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these updates, but I’m delaying my Winter 2017 10-item wardrobe post until later this week. I decided I needed one more item, and I found something for $10 on ThredUp. Fingers crossed. To the links!

Current Events

The Women’s March took place this past Saturday, and estimates place attendance at 2.9 million. Even more amazingly–no arrests! I stayed home with Sarah here in Portland, but my husband went with our son and his former wife, and said it was an inspiring show of unity.

What got me a little choked up was seeing all of the Princess Leia-related Women’s March signs, especially so close to Carrie Fisher’s death. Carrie Fisher was an outspoken broad of the first order, and I feel like she would have approved.

What’s next? I thought The Atlantic had an interesting take, comparing the demonstration to previous protests in Russia and their aftereffects.

Cool Stuff

My amazing husband, Scott Allie, and our son Sid put together an epic Gilmore Girls/Murder, She Wrote crossover comic for me for my birthday, bringing Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Norton, Dave Stewart, and Nate Piekos together to help make it. It is one of the very best things I have ever received in my life. Sid wrote most of Jessica Fletcher’s dialogue himself! More details at Nerdist.

Gilmore Girls Murder She Wrote Comic

Amazing, right?

Every year for Christmas, my parents buy me a set of Soma pajamas and I love them so much. They are cute and comfortable and have pockets. This year I got some that are gray-and-white striped with a little silver, and I just noticed they are way on sale.

My friend Liza got me Great Balls of Cheese, a cookbook dedicated to cheese balls, and I am obsessed. I will make every single one of these!

Geekery

I’m expanding my role with GeekCraft Expo to include all of their upcoming shows (including some that haven’t been announced yet–yay!). I love being able to work with so many awesome crafters and see their nerdy goods! Exhibitor applications for GeekCraft Expo PDX 2017 are open until January 31, so make sure to fill yours out now!

I’ve also been really enjoying working with The Doubleclicks! You can check out their free online show 1/26 (with special guests the Library Bards), or catch their #NerdNightOut shows 2/11 in Seattle and 2/12 in Portland!

As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of podcast Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men. I’ve just been invited to guest-host again next month, I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, listen to their latest episode, which covers Excalibur’s Cross-Time Caper and the aftermath.

Phew! I hope you all are enjoying January. I must admit, I’m relieved to have the holidays over with. Portland got about 10 inches of snow and then some ice, which prolonged Sid’s Christmas vacation (which was actually pretty nice), but kept me housebound a little too long.

What have you been up to? Post below and say hi!

Confetti Bean Soup Jar Gift

Confetti Soup Mix Jar Gift & Recipe

Confetti Bean Soup Jar Gift

Confetti soup looks as pretty in a pot as it does in a jar!

Yes! I have finally given out 99.9% of my Christmas gifts (listen, we were all busy), so I can post pictures and how-tos without spoiling them! As you know, I love jar gifts, especially those with pretty layers, so I was excited to try this Confetti Soup Mix this year.

I have to say this was successful on all levels–it’s inexpensive, easy, pretty, and (most importantly) delicious! My directions to make the soup are a little different than Organized Christmas’s, so I thought I’d post them here. Also, I have some printable labels to share!

To Make the Confetti Soup Mix Jar Gift

You Need (to make 12 jars):

12 wide-mouth pint canning jars with lid and rings
3 cups each of seven different varieties of dried beans, peas, and lentils. I used the following, but you can use whatever you like:

  • Pink beans
  • Red lentils
  • Navy beans
  • Red kidney beans
  • Split peas
  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans

12 bouillon cubes (I used chicken and veggie)
12 bay leaves

Instructions

1. Wash and dry canning jars.
2. Layer beans in jars (this is especially easy with a canning funnel). Add 1/4 cup of each type of bean to the jars, layering the beans. Think about how the colors will look as you layer!
3. Place a bay leaf and a bouillon cube on top of the beans in each jar.
4. Seal each jar using lids and rings.
5. Add a label, if you like! My husband did the lettering for these and I scanned them into a template for these Avery round kraft labelsConfetti Soup Jar Labels.

Confetti Soup Mix Jar Gifts

Confetti Soup Mix in a jar! Pretty!

Recipe for Confetti Bean Soup

You Need (four servings):

Confetti Soup Mix
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups of liquid–I used 4 cups chicken broth and 2 cups water
14-oz can chopped tomatoes in juice
Dried oregano and basil (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Remove and set aside the bay leaf and bouillon cube. Soak the beans in salted water overnight, or bring beans to a boil and let sit for one hour. Drain the beans.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Saute, stirring frequently, until softened. Add the remaining ingredients except for salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about two hours.

Taste, then season with salt and pepper.

These are perfect for Christmas, hostess, and teacher gifts–and since beans are pretty much non-perishable, you can make a batch and keep them on hand!

Has anyone given this a try? Post below!

Christmas Detox: Holiday China Edition

So what, Christmas decorations can go up in stores before Halloween, but we’re just supposed to stop December 26? In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, I don’t think so. I’ve been wanting to do a post on my Christmas china for awhile–I do so love it, and I have so much, but I’ve hesitated because I worried that it was too self-indulgent. Then I realized that having my own blog was pretty self-indulgent, so why not?

I had a lot of fun taking pictures of everything before I put it away until (sigh) next December–I hope you enjoy!

Lenox Holiday China

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For me, Lenox Holiday is the gold standard, the ne plus ultra of Christmas china. For years, I eyed it like a future junkie: “I’ll certainly never buy that, that would be ridiculous! Ha!” I knew I’d only be able to hold out so long. I finally started collecting it after I made a little deal with myself: I would start slow (buying two place settings on sale), and I would use it for every meal, every day in December.

This justification was aided by the fact that Lenox Holiday is basically a holly-festooned version of my wedding china, Eternal, so I could mix and match the pieces until I gathered a full set. I currently have eight place settings, thanks in large part to my Mom, who has also donated to the “cause.”

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Um, as you can see, I didn’t stop with the place setting (see also: the adorable Santa train salt and pepper shakers, above). I have more Holiday serving pieces than Eternal (I actually have none for that), because Holiday goes way on sale around the holidays, and Eternal never does! Get that wedding registry money, Macy’s–you jerks! But. I love these, and I generally entertain a lot around the holidays, so I use them a lot.

Rosanna Twelve Days of Christmas & More

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While the Lenox Holiday is my drug of choice, my gateway plates are from Rosanna, a Seattle company that designs delightful tableware. I believe I first saw these 12 Days of Christmas appetizer plates in Martha Stewart, and they’re still available on the Rosanna site! A real bonus: Rosanna packages their wares in collectible boxes that are cute and actually useful for storage.

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Yes, there’s more. Listen, I can stop whenever I want. These three items were all presents from my brother, who raided Rosanna’s Jolly Holiday collection. Unfortunately, these are no longer available on the site. I use the small tray for cookies for “Santa,” and the plates and mugs for snacks and hot chocolate.

Thrift/Unknown

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I got this large vintage plastic (melamine?) tray at a thrift store a long time ago and I love it. The pearlized plastic is embedded with flecks of silver, and it’s unbreakable. Thrift and vintage stores can be a great source of holiday china and serve ware–garage and estate sales, too!

When I see my holiday china all laid out like this, 50% of me is embarrassed and the other 50% wants to roll around on it like Indecent Proposal (weird, also: ouch). But I love it so much: I love the holidays, and entertaining, and family traditions, and I love having something special to use in December. I look at my china and I see decades of holidays around the table, and it makes me very happy.

I’m gonna close with another shot of salt-and-pepper Santa! Thanks for reading about my jolly folly!

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I Hate Taking Down Christmas

takechristmasdown

As soon as I touch this, the remaining needles are gonna hit the floor. Help me Hellboy!

It was about 6:00 last night when I realized that–ugh–garbage and recycling pickup was the next morning, which meant I needed to buckle down and get our once-beautiful Christmas tree out to the curb. This was made easier by the fact that our tree had completely dried out and only weighed about five pounds, but still: I hate taking down Christmas.

Preparing for Christmas is magical–getting out the decorations! Picking the tree! Lovingly reminiscing over ornaments! Your family members join in, because we’re making beautiful memories we’ll cherish forever!

Putting Christmas away is drag. Why do we keep some of these hideous ornaments? Can I get rid of them without anyone noticing? Why did I put so many lights on the tree? Is there any way to take them off without taking out half the branches (answer: science is working on it)? As I grimly wound hundreds of tiny lights and stuffed them back into their boxes, a traitorous, non-Christmassy though invaded my head: what if we didn’t do a Christmas tree next year?

What has happened to me? Along with my brother, I’m the most Christmassy jerk I know! But trees are expensive. And messy. And wasteful. And I hate doing the lights. But I won’t let anyone else do the lights. And our house is small. And WARM (hence the extra-crispy needles all over the house).

Every year about this time, I have a very special fantasy. Close your eyes, Mom! Just kidding. I think about artificial Christmas trees: beautiful, non-shedding, pre-lit Christmas trees that are perfectly shaped and can hold those super-heavy ornaments that came from god-knows-where. But then I sigh and realize I don’t have the space to store one–that’s why I keep our artificial garlands up all year long (also: I’m a Christmassy jerk, see above).

I know that I have a year to regain my Christmas spirit. Sid loves doing the tree (and is getting pretty good at helping with the lights). Sarah is only two–I certainly can’t deprive her of these precious Christmas traditions (I can’t, right?!?). But today, I still have a whole house of ho-ho-ho to stuff under the beds. Maybe some holiday music would help . . .

 

turkey enchiladas

Thanksgiving Recovery

turkey enchiladas

Image via Epicurious. Get. In. My. Belly!

Whew! And how was your Thanksgiving? Mine was wonderful and exhausting, but this morning, I was confronted with the reality that it was not over: I still had a turkey carcass in my fridge that had to be dealt with. So I put on a YouTube playlist (The Daily Connoisseur gets me motivated), pushed up my sleeves, and got to work, carving off and saving the extra meat and tearing apart the bird so I could make two pots of broth (we had a 20-pound turkey this year–huge!). As I worked I had the following random thoughts, which you might appreciate:

  • Next year I need to look for the baggie of giblets a little harder. My Dad discovered it (fully cooked, in paper) while he carved the turkey. Whoops.
  • I feel like I did not sell my Fresh Herb Stuffing recipe as well as I could have (seeing that I hadn’t eaten it in a year when I typed it out). Frankly: it is gooooooood. So good! So simple, so the fresh herbs take center stage. And the texture from the artisan bread was perfect: soft yet substantial, with toasty edges. Oh, I want more. My friend Mary-Suzanne used my recipe and added some dried cherries, which sounds fantastic.
  • Finally, after 41 years, I am over canned cranberry sauce. It’s too sweet. So I need a good whole-berry recipe–anyone want to share?

Okay, fess up–do you have a bird in your fridge right now? Don’t let it go to waste! I had to toss some leftover pie this morning and was very sad. Here are my plans to put our turkey to good use:

  • Turkey broth: I follow the guidelines for my chicken broth recipe, but I usually divide the bird between two pots and make double.
  • Mexican Turkey Soup: I use the recipe from Soup Makes the Meal, by Ken Haedrich, but this recipe from the New York Times looks lovely.
  • Turkey Enchiladas: This was a suggestion from a friend on Facebook–I love enchiladas, and I like to avoid traditional Thanksgiving flavors when I use up my turkey leftovers (see soup above)–it makes them more interesting.
  • Paleo Turkey Tetrazzini: I am not paleo, but my friend Melissa is, and she is fantastic at choosing recipes, so I’m excited to try this. My husband loves spaghetti squash and will be excited to eat more vegetables.

What are your Thanksgiving recovery plans? Do you have a whole-berry cranberry sauce recipe to share? Post below!

Thanksgiving Menu 2016

thanksgivingWhew! Do you like how I’ve posted more in the past few days than the past few months? It’s all been leading up to this: my Thanksgiving 2016 menu!

These are all tried-and-true, crowd-pleasing recipes that aren’t terribly difficult and are so worth it. Anyway, I’m pleased to have them all in one place so I can refer to this post next year!

Elisabeth’s Thanksgiving 2016 Menu

Alton Brown’s Classic Brined and Roasted Turkey – This is simple yet delicious! Includes a recipe for gravy. It does require a 5-gallon drink cooler (the kind you dump on your coach after the winning game). If you don’t want to buy one, check your local party rental shop, you can probably rent one for less than $10.

The Pioneer Woman’s Parker House Rolls – These rolls are buttery and amazing. I don’t shape the dough for Parker House Rolls, however–I shape them into two-ounce balls.

Fresh Herb Stuffing – This stuffing is delicious and has countless variations!

Mashed Potatoes – I actually don’t use a recipe (I boil about 1/2 lb of potatoes per person in salted water, rice them, and add cream, butter, and salt and pepper to taste), but this one is great!

Green Bean Casserole – The classic! My brother’s favorite.

Green Beans with Filberts, Fennel & Orange – Yes, I’m having two green bean dishes. However, this one is so wildly different from the casserole, I don’t think anyone will notice.

Cranberry Jelly – The ridged kind from the can–aw yeah!

Great Pumpkin Pie – Fortunately, I don’t have to make pie this year (my Mom is making her delicious pie), but when I make pumpkin pie, I use Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe from The Pie and Pastry Bible. It has a layer of ground gingersnaps and pecans at the bottom, and it is soooooo good.

I hope you enjoy my picks!

Green Beans With Filberts, Fennel & Orange

Thanksgiving! It’s less than a week away. I never worry about my menu, because guess what: my family likes to eat the same dishes every year, no matter what. Sure, I might try a new stuffing recipe or add a new appetizer, but if I take out the green bean casserole? It’s over. But I can usually add a new vegetable dish, and this year, it’s Green Beans with Filberts, Fennel, and Orange.

My friend Sara Proctor adapted this from a very different Ottolenghi recipe. It’s zesty and fresh and tart–the perfect thing to cut through the richness of mashed potatoes and gravy. Plus it’s delicious at room temperature!

Green Beans with Filberts, Fennel & Orange

1 fennel bulb, stems removed and thinly sliced, then quick pickled (see below)
2 cups green beans, stems removed and cut in half
1 small blood orange, zested and juiced
2 Tablespoons sesame oil (olive or any nut oil will work)
3/4 cup filberts, roasted (see below)
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Quick-Pickled Fennel:

3/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then allow to cool. Pour over fennel and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Roasted Filberts:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In an oven-proof dish, place filberts on the middle rack and roast for approximately 15 minutes, checking and shaking every few minutes. Once roasted, place in a clean kitchen towel and rub to remove skins. Roughly chop.

Main Recipe:

Blanch green beans in boiling water for 4 minutes, then shock in ice-cold water. Drain and towel dry. Place in a medium bowl and add chives, orange zest and chopped fennel. Mix.

In a small bowl, mix orange juice, sesame oil, salt and pepper, and a few squirts of lemon juice. Pour over green bean mixture.

Add filberts, toss, and serve.