Gotta be grateful, not hateful

Best worst song ever.

We we we we gonna have a good time.

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Ten Days of Thanksgiving: Day 10

Today I’m grateful for this holiday.

Thanksgiving is an easy holiday to love. It’s the one day a year when it’s totally acceptable to fill your plate with carbs, when the correct answer to the question, “mashed potatoes or sweet?” is “Both!” How do you not love that!? I also love that Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays.

I remember back in elementary school learning about both the “melting pot” view of America vs. the “tossed salad” view. The melting pot view teaches that when immigrants come to this country they all blend together in to one to become Americans. The tossed salad view teaches that when immigrants come to this country they retain their own unique flavor which just makes the proverbial salad that much more delicious, each individual ingredient tastes great on it’s own, but when taken together it really turns in to something extra special.

I’ve always been in the tossed salad camp and Thanksgiving is one of our best examples of the tossed salad view in action. As Americans most of us have all of the same staples on our Thanksgiving tables; a turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc. Depending on the culture you come from though, there are often some untraditional additions. I have Italian friends who serve a pasta dish, Indian friends who have a curry on their table, German friends who prepare braised red cabbage as part of their feast.

America is a place where we can celebrate both our similarities and our differences and Thanksgiving gives us a great opportunity to do that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Winner!

A couple of weeks ago when of my favorite neighborhood bars, George Keelys, hosted a fundraiser for hurricane relief. As part of the fundraiser they sold raffle tickets and as prizes you’d be able to select one out of a selection of some really rare specialty craft beers. For a craft beer lover like me those were magic words and when I won I was psyched.

The choices were overwhelming, but I’d been chatting with a guy who works in the beer industry and he helped me make my pick.

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According to the guy who was helping me Hill Farmstead Brewerys Vera Mae was brewed only once and never shipped out of Vermont (someone had brought it themselves and donated it for the fundraiser) so I likely had one of the only bottles in New York! I’m waiting until next weekend, when I have some beer living friends visiting, to try it. I’m so excited and of course I’ll report back.

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10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 9

Today I’m thankful for all of the amazing friends that blogging had brought in to my life.

I used to have a personal blog which is how I met most of these amazing people, but now so many of them have become friends beyond blogging.

My relationships with my blog friends formed largely in the same way pen pals did way back when. We learned about each other largely through the written word, but we bared our souls and let ourselves be vulnerable and opened ourselves up to this amazing community of people. I am beyond lucky to have a great group of close friends and these days I count many of the friends I’ve made through blogging among them. They’ve laughed with me and cried with me and are steadfastly in my corner always cheering me on.

They say that you can meet “the one” anywhere. I believe that and I also believe it goes for friendship too. If you open yourself up you can meet some extraordinary people and form lasting bonds in unexpected places.

So bloggy buddies, today I’m thankful for YOU!

So damn unpretty!

Here’s what I tell people about my food, I guarantee it’s gonna taste good, but it might not looks so good. Unlike most other food bloggers out there, I have zero talent for anything crafty. I am not at all domestic, I’m just a great cook. So, while I’ll mix the ingredients in a way that will make your taste buds happy, but the garnishes will be falling off the top of the cake will be cut in to servings that look more like puzzle pieces.

You need proof, for Thanksgiving last year I made Gingerbread Bars. They were a huge hit, taste wise at least…

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10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 8

Today I’m thankful for text messaging. Much like social media, text messaging comes with plenty of problems. It’s unfortunate that people these days often don’t realize that text messaging is totally appropriate for, “I’ll be there in 5,” or “Here’s the address of the restaurant,” but not so much for, “So where’d you grow up,” or, “What are your future goals and aspirations.”

Text messages certainly shouldn’t replace real conversation, but I love that text can keep you engaged with friends. As my friends and I have gotten older, we’ve gotten busier and it’s become harder to have long phone chats on a regular basis and most of my close friends don’t live in the same city as me so we also don’t see each other that often. Text messaging allows us to always keep in quick touch. Sometimes it’s a quick, “Was just thinking about you. I miss you,” or a “OMG I just saw [insert celebrity] at Starbucks” or a funny picture we know will crack the other one up.

Text messaging (actually iMessage) also allows me to keep in touch with friends abroad. iMessaging is free whereas international calls can be obscenely expensive.

Text messaging is certainly not perfect, but I’m very thankful that it’s a quick and easy way for me to always be in touch with people I love even when they’re not nearby.

My coworker is better than your coworker

I came to work on Friday to find a hunk of homemade bread my coworker Julie had baked waiting for me. It was dee-licous!

Do you have any coworkers who are that cool?

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10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 7

Today I am thankful that I’m in a position to help others.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I blogged about my first experience volunteering for Hurricane Sandy relief for work. After the blog had been posted my coworker, Nadira,  commented, “At some points I feel guilty because we were spared knowing that so many lives and materials were destroyed, but it also gives us the capacity to help our neighbors.”

The words struck me. Those of us who lived in areas largely unaffected by the storm had a sort of collective survivors guilt, but that comment helped me to re frame my thinking. Perhaps some of us in New York had gotten off so easy so that we would have the capacity to help others.

This is not just related to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy though because I am fortunate to have the ability to help others all year round. I am certainly not in much a financial position to help anyone (I can barely help myself financially), but  I’m blessed to have my health, an education, a safe place to live, access to clean water and food when so many others don’t. Even if I can’t contribute much monetarily, I have my voice, I have my hands and I have my time and I am very lucky for that.

S is for… Slovenia; Soup for the sleep deprived

Pozdravljeni

Flag of Slovenia

It’s been acrazy few weeks for me between work, holiday planning, volunteering and about a million and a half other things. I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks exhausted. I was really craving food that was simple and comforting so Slovenian mushroom soup, Gobova Juha, seemed to fit the bill.

Apparently Slovenian’s are crazy for mushrooms. Who knew? My original plan was to also make Slovenian bread dumplings because they sounded heavenly, but between my exhaustion and acknowledging that with Thanksgiving coming up I should probably keep it light, I stuck with just the soup.

Gobova Juha
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion; diced
  • 2 cloves garlic; crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1lb meaty mushrooms; cut in to chunks
  • 2 medium potatoes; peeled and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 medium potatoes; cubed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup Riesling or similar white wine

    Ready for our bath!

Melt butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they just begin to soften about 3 minute.
Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Stir in mushrooms, spices, potatoes and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are nearly cooked through.
Stir in wine and bring back up to a boil. Allow soup to gently boil for an additional 10 minutes.
Serves 4

Boiling away

FINAL VERDICT: B
I will definitely be making this soup again. Next time I make it, when I’m less concerned with authenticity, I’ll probably experiment with spices, but this was just a really nice, easy everyday soup. Most of the recipes I found suggsted serving this with a dollop of sour cream on top. I’m sure that would be amazing since it’s a commonly known fact that sour cream makes everything better, but the dollops of sour cream didn’t exactly fit with the whole eating light before Thanksgiving plan.
This is a grat vgetarian recipe to have around and could easily be made vegan by replacing the butter with something vegan friendly. I’m not well schooledin gluten substitutions, but I’m also guessing it wouldn’t be too hard to find a replacement for the flour to make this soup gluten free.

I feel so naked without my nice dollop of sour cream, but I’m still yummy!

Dober tek!

10 Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

Today I’m thankful that I live in a city where I have access to so many amazing foods.

New York is probably the best place in the world when it comes to the diversity of food you can get here. Having people from all over the world all living in one city means that they bring their foods with them. The number ethnic restaurants you can find here is unblievable and while it’s often hard to me to experiment with new cuisines, it still makes my foodie heart sing to know that I live in a city that’s collectively excited to try new foods.

Living in a city that is so richly diverse also makes experimenting a pleasure. When I’m trying a new recipe I rarely worry that I won’t be able to find the ingredients I need. Of course you can’t get everything in New York, but I think it’s safe to say that you can get most things here and I am very thankful for that!

Hurricane Night Food

It’s late and I just realized that if I don’t blog today there’s no way I’ll get in my Ten Days of Thanksgiving so I’m posting a picture what I ate on the night of the storm so that I had an excuse to blog.

A nice comforting bowl of polenta with meat sauce.

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Today I’m thankful for social media. There are A LOT of bad things about social media and trust me I could right a novel about that, but today I’m thankful for what’s right about it. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I saw quite clearly how powerful a tool social media can be. After the storm people were sad and scared, they needed a community and they needed a quick way to check on friends and neighbors so they took to Facebook. One person who’d been able to get back to a hard hit area would check on friends and neighbors and property and then report back to all those Facebook friends, then those friends would post to their own pages and another set of people could see updates and so on and so on. Entire communities displaced by the storm found each other and offered each other words of support.

Facebook and Twitter and blogs also helped us to let the world know what was going on here. Most amazingly though, and entire movement of volunteers and donations was started and being maintained using social media. With the power of a few tweets, Occupy Sandy can let us know where volunteers are most needed or what supplies they’re in urgent need of and their followers step up to the plate and deliver.

So thank you social media, you’ve got many many problems, but often times you are simply awesome.

R is for… Romania; Better late than never

Alo

Romanian Flag

A couple of weeks ago I cooked a Romanian recipe. I figured I’d blog about it within a few days, but then we had that hurricane that you’ve heard me talk so much about and I kind of shifted my focus. This week I’m trying to get Back to Basics (a Christina Aguilera reference because I worship her like the Goddess she is and I’m so freaking excited that her new album came out today).

One of the guests at the United Noshes dinner I attended a few weeks ago had spent time living in Romania and gave me one major piece of advice; they eat a ton of polenta. Well that was music to this carb loving girls years! I had been thinking about making a soup, but I really wanted to gorge myself on enjoy some polenta (mămăligă in Romanian) so I chose to make Varza Cu Carne de Porc, a pork and cabbage dish.

Polenta and veggies and pork, oh my!

Varza Cu Carne de Porc

  • A couple of tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5lbs pork shoulder; cubed
  • 1 onion; thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic; crushed
  • 1 green bell pepper; thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium cabbage; shredded
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons caraway
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1lb sauerkraut
  • 1 cup water

Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add pork and brown on all sides, working in batches if necessary. Remove pork from pot and set aside.

Add onions and garlic and cook until onions just begin to soften, approximately 3-5 minutes.

Add pepper and cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage just begins to soften, approximately 5-7 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste and all spices. Add pork back to pot, stirring to coat.

Add sauerkraut and water. Lower heat. Cover pot with lid and simmer for 35 minutes until pork is tender.

Serve over polenta.

Serves 4-6

Ready to go.

 FINAL VERDICT: B

This was a really pleasant dish and would be especially well suited to a cold, rainy day as it’s definitely hearty comfort food. It’s also always great to add to the list of one pot dishes so there’s less cleanup later.

I love the way caraway and cabbage taste together. The two flavors are natural partners, much like Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton dueting on the song, Just a Fool from her new album available today (yup I went there again). I also really liked the play of the fresh cabbage and the sauerkraut. The fresh cabbage retains just a bit of its coolness and crunch which cut through the tang of the nice soft sauerkraut. The only thing I’d do differently if I made this again is to double the spices.

Dinner!

poftă bună

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It’s Day #2 in my Ten Days of Thanksgiving inspired by Lisa.

On Sunday I spent all day at one of the Hurricane Sandy Relief hubs of Occupy Sandy. Yes, Occupy Sandy was started by Occupy Wall Street (OWS), but even people who disagree with OWS are commending them for their hurricane efforts and they have become the main relief organization in the city. If you call most local churches, synagogues, non-profits or community groups asking how you can volunteer they’re sending you to Occupy Sandy. During the brief new volunteer orientation you’re given, they do explain to you the principles OWS was founded on, but they also say, “It’s OK if you don’t agree with us, we’re just happy to have you hear volunteering for communities in need.”

My friends and I came to The Church of St Luke and St. Matthew at 520 Clinton St in Brooklyn ready to do whatever needed to be done including going out to the actual disaster sites. What we saw when we arrived was stunning. The church had been turned in to a massive base of operations. There was a communication center set up upstairs to field calls and emails and to communicate with those out in the field.

Downstairs were the kitchens where hot meals were being prepared and lunch bags with sandwiches and snacks were being packed. When Occupy Sandy began, the day after the hurricane  they were preparing 5,000 bagged lunches; they’re now up to 25,000 bagged lunches a day. The chapel on the main floor was home base for driver dispatch and donation drop off and pick up and though we had several jobs that day that’s where we spent most of our time.

If you ever need your faith in humanity renewed go spend some time at one of these hubs and witness the goodness of people. There were people there of all ages, races and economic circumstances. If you came with a laptop they needed your help up in communications. You’ve got a car, great they’ll send you out in the field; kitchen experience, head downstairs and have at it. If you show up they will find you a way to help.

One of the sweetest things I saw was the huge number of parents who came with their little ones. There were two main projects for kids. The really little ones were given crayons and paper to make cards for people affected by the storm. The slightly older ones were put to work making sandwiches and packing lunches.

Last time I posted that I was thankful for all of the amazing people around the country who were doing all they could to help us out. Today I am grateful for my own community, right here. I’m thankful that people can put aside politics and any other disagreements and just help. I have always believed that New York and New Jersey are filled with amazing people who will always be there for a neighbor in need and Sunday’s experience just hammered that home. So thank you to my neighbors, I am awed and humbled by all that you’re doing.

If you are able to please send items like cleaning supplies, first aid, adult diapers, flashlights, batteries, blankets and baby needs to:

Church of St. Luke and Matthew
520 Clinton Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238