Friday, December 31, 2010

Snacember 31

Happy Almost New Year!

Thanks for sticking with me for the whole month...I can't believe we made it. 

And frankly, I'm not sure that I ever want to do 31 posts in a row ever again.

But here we are, so I thought for the last post I would talk about resolutions.

I hate the way we traditionally think of resolutions.  They are always about somehow finding fault with ourselves and our lives, and trying to promise to fix everything.  We resolve to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy....very easy after a month of holiday binges.  But by February we are face down in a vat of mashed potatoes, full of self-loathing and feeling a failure.  We resolve to communicate better, to love more or better, to not make mistakes.  Well, piffle, I say.

I committed a few years ago to two things....

One, I only make resolutions for the things I feel sure to be successful.  I resolve to laugh as much as possible, and to be a source of mirth for those around me.  I resolve to tell the people I love them that I love them as often as possible.  I resolve to nap and take long hot baths whenever reasonable.  Full stop.  Because if I achieve those, everything else is either gravy, or at least manageable. This year I resolve to marry my Charming Suitor and take the next step in our happily ever after!

Two, I make resolutions for the people I care about.  I resolve that they should find love, fulfilling work, joy.  I resolve that they should remain healthy, or overcome health issues.  I resolve that they should pursue their dreams, and be open to the universe when it sends them new dreams to dream.  I know it sounds more like wishes or prayers, but I prefer to think of them as resolutions.  Because dreams and prayers are ephemeral things beyond our control.  And while I know I can't control the fates of the people I care about, I feel strongly that if I think of these as resolutions, I will consciously remember to support them over this next year as these things hopefully come to pass.

For you, my dear Chickens, I resolve both to continue to provide the contents of my head, for whatever they are worth, and I also resolve that you shall keep reading them.  Agreed?

I wish you all a year filled with all of the things you need, most of the things that you want, and hopefully some stuff you didn't even know you should be wanting.

I also resolve that you shall forgive me for I am now about to take a few days off from the blog so that I can return re-energized.  31 in a row is a lot.  Imagine trying to eat all of Baskin Robbin's flavors in a row.  Hopefully the month was more Fudge Twirl than Daquiri Ice.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snacember 30


For the past few years, I have spent New Year's with a group of friends that includes R&R and Amazing Goddaughter, Officer K, Chef Denise and JB, and S&J.  We are a tight group, we travel together, spend lovely weekends out at the Farm, and generally get up to all sorts of fabulous mischief.

Since Chef Denise and Officer K are ususally working on NYE, and the rest of us are not particularly into being out and about on amateur night, we save our serious celebrating for the 1st.  This has proven particularly useful since it allows Charming Suitor and I to do something else for NYE, and not miss out on my existing tradition!  Last year, CS and I spent NYE at a lovely small dinner party thrown by his very grand friends, Hostess with the Mostest and Big J.  They entertain a great deal, and we are always delighted to be in the mix, fun food, good wine, much laughter.  Even though I was a little nervous last year, since CS and I were barely a month into our romance, they made me most welcome and it was a very joyous way to welcome the new year. 

Now they are my friends too, and are an excellent addition to the crew, as with all of CS's pals, who are slowly becoming one large gaggle of fun as they get to know my gang!  One of the really amazing things about CS is that his friends are all the kinds of people that if I had met them without him, I would have wanted them for my friends regardless.  And all of our extended peeps are playing very nicely together, which makes gatherings that much more fun!

This year, CS and I are laying low on NYE, just the two of us and a really nice bottle of bubbly, because on NYD we have invited the slightly expanded gang over (in their pajamas) for a day of football and board games and hearty "day after the night before" food, like chili and my famous mac n cheese.

At one of their recent dinner parties, the Hostess with the Mostess made this fantastic dip, which she got from a pal of hers a while back, called Sweet Pea Guacamole.  This made me very happy, since as we know, I am not a big fan of the avocado.  I loved the freshness of the dip, and the fact that it is a good healthy option on tables that may be laden with just a wee bit too much bad-for-you fare.  I will not share the details of this particular party, other than 10 alleged grown-ups spent several hours laughing till we wept, eating and drinking outrageously, a platinum bob wig was involved (mostly for the guys), two couples lost their cars, and one gent spectacularly broke his nose without ever stopping laughing.  Who says we can't party anymore!?

HWTM graciously shared with me, so I am sharing with you.  I have also shared the ways that I tweaked it the tiniest bit for my palate in parens, so feel free to adjust for your own taste.  Bring it to your own NYD party!

Sweet Pea Guacamole

2 (to 6) T olive oil
2 T fresh lime juice
¼ bunch cilantro, large stems removed (I automatically use flat leaf parsely here because I think cilantro tastes like soap, but hers was mild enough that I didn't care)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded (I add half at a time, just in case I get a really hot one, since I am a spice wuss)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 lb frozen petite peas, thawed
½ tsp each dried oregano, ground cumin
½ to ¾ tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper and hot sauce to taste
¼ medium red onion, finely minced

You can toss the minced onion in the lime juice and let sit for ten minutes before making this recipe, or you can substitute shallot or scallions for a milder flavor, if you want to temper some of the raw onion bite, otherwise just leave it.  If you do, drain the lime juice into your food processor, reserving the onion, (or just put the lime juice directly in the bowl), and add the olive oil, cilantro (or parsley), jalapeno and garlic pulsing until mostly pureed. Add peas, spices and salt, blend until smooth. If you prefer a more velvety texture, add another 2-4 T olive oil while the blade is running.  Adjust seasonings. Stir in reserved onion by hand.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snacember 29

I'm a game girl.

I like board games and card games and puzzles.  Charming Suitor and I love to snuggle up with a crossword, and Little Sister and I kick butt whenever we team up against anyone in almost any game.  I like the classics, and the obscure.  And I think games night, or games day is a fun way to hang with your family or best pals.

Here are some of my alltime faves:


An old school game I learned at my grandmother's elbow, simple on the surface and easy to learn, but with deep strategy once you know what you are doing.

Milles Bornes

A French card game about driving.  It sounds weird, but is enormous fun.  Chef Denise and I got up to all sorts of sinister things last time we were in France, and there is a rematch always brewing.

Foodie Fight  

The perfect game if you and your gang are gourmands with good memories.


Fun for a group that is clever with words.

Catch Phrase 

Hysterical laughter is bound to ensue.  Good for large groups.


Let's just say that the first time Charming Suitor and I were alone with Little Sister and her own Charming Suitor, we triumphed.  LS is still pouting.  But it was excellent when Mom and Dad arrived to see two happy couples wiping tears of mirth at their own antics.

What are your favorites for game night?

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snacember 28

Everyone getting your countdown on yet? 

As the year starts to speed to a close, I start to reflect on the year that has gone by, the struggles and blessings, the loved ones lost, the babies born, the many things to be grateful for, and the challenges that call on our strength of spirit.

While a lot of people wait till New Year's Eve for this sort of reflection, I prefer for that day to be all about looking forward, not looking back.  Dreaming about the year ahead, the goals and ambitions, the excitement it brings.

So today is the day I look back, and thank the universe for my life.  All of it, the good, the bad, the ugly. 2010 was a biggie.  I fell in love with the most amazing man on the planet, and he proposed and now we are going to get married!  A dear cousin and friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, suffered her surgeries and treatment, and while she still has a little to go, she has now been pronounced cancer free.  In her honor, Little Sister took on not only the physical challenge of the Susan Koman 3 Day walk for the cure, but was the top fundraiser in all of Chicagoland, and got to stand on the stage during the opening and closing ceremonies.  Bonus Sister P was by her side the whole walk, and we were all there beaming with pride to see them finish.

Good Enough to Eat was released and people seem to enjoy it and have been saying nice things about it online and in print.  I sold a new book, Bread & Butter, which will be out in the Summer of 2012.

The people I love, know that I love them, and so today I send the world a thank you for letting me have them in my life, and a wish that the year ahead for them will be filled with joy and good things.

The rest of it is just for me.

Except for this.  Before we all get wrapped up in New Year sparkles, and the inevitable slam of work and life that follows, I want to say that I am grateful everyday for you...and thank you for reading and commenting and sharing.  I love knowing that you are out there, and hope that I can continue to amuse you.  And when I ask the universe for all good things for the people who are important to me, you are very much included in that.

The Polymath

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snacember 27

I love it when I get inspired at the grocery store to come up with an off-the cuff recipe.  This one happened completely by chance.

I was in the produce section of Whole Foods and picked up a package of peeled butternut squash chunks for roasting, a favorite side dish at this time of year.  Then I spotted some fresh sheets of pasta, and visions of lasagna began to float in my head. Charming Suitor is not much of a red-sauce guy, so I started imagining a blonde dish. I grabbed some ricotta. 

At home, some shallots decided to join the party, and a quick bechamel poked its head up and before I knew it , this lasagna was born. 

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
2 medium fresh buffalo mozzarella balls, shredded
3 lbs butternut squash chunks
3 shallots
2 T canola oil
½ t sugar
¼ c grated parmagiano reggiano
Zest of one lemon
2 T chopped chives
Fresh lasagna noodles, 1 package (or regular lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions)
Salt and Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Toss squash chunks and shallots in oil and place in one layer on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with the sugar, and salt and pepper. Roast until caramelized and tender, about 35-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Chop separately and set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan, whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and let cook till thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a little bit of nutmeg. Set aside to cool slightly.

Mix ricotta with cream. Add in the chopped chives and chopped shallots and lemon zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once you like the flavor, blend in the egg yolks.

Put 1/2 of the ricotta on the bottom of your lasagna pan, followed by a layer of noodles. Put 1/2 of the b├ęchamel on top of the noodles, followed by 1/2 the squash, sprinkle with the parmagiano.

Another layer of noodles, the remaining ricotta, then the rest of the squash.

More noodles, the rest of the b├ęchamel then the shredded mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil.

Refrigerate for up to two days if you like, or bake immediately in a 350 oven for 45 minutes. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

For a variation, halve the squash and replace with chunks of another cooked vegetable like zucchini, kale, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes….whatever strikes your fancy!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snacember 26

Too.  Much. Ham.

Traditional Christmas Ham,

In veritable ham coma.

But still sane enough to know that this, right here?  Is VERY VERY WRONG.

I mean, I know it is either the joy dream or nightmare of my people, but very. wrong.

But hilarious.

Reminds me of the time I went to a conference in Houston, and the vegetarians asked what items were on the buffet that they could eat.  They were motioned over to the following items:

Salad (with bacon bits and salami)
Cream of Potato Soup (cooked in chicken stock)
Corn (with bacon)
Collard Greens (cooked with ham hocks)
Green Beans (more bacon)
And BBQ beans (bacon AND sausage)

God Bless us Every One.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Snacember 25

We all know what today is, don't we? is NATIONAL MOVIE AND CHINESE FOOD DAY!

Also?  Christmas.

And yes, my darling fiance (I may eventually tire of that word, but not this week) Charming Suitor and I will be headed out to celebrate the Yuletide with Officer K's lovely family, who have adopted me and ply me with ham.  But I do love the movie and Chinese food tradition of my people, and it is likely that later tonight there will be a DVD and some takeout.  So I thought I would give you a recipe that honors both!  A lovely appetizer to bring to your Xmas celebration, but in that American Chinese Food tradition.


Chinese-Style Spare Ribs

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 T honey
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons. sugar
1 T fresh grated ginger
3/4 teaspoon. red food coloring (opt)
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 2-pound slab spareribs, preferably St. Louis style, cut into individual ribs

Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Place ribs in a large ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and massage to coat ribs evenly.  Place in the refrigerator and marinate for one hour to overnight.

Remove ribs from the refrigerator   Preheat oven to 350.  Place the ribs on a rack over a roasting pan, with a little water in the bottom, reserving marinade. Cover with foil and cook at for 35 minutes. Baste ribs with reserved marinade; flip and baste again. Cover and continue to cook for 35 minutes more.

Baste with remaining marinade and up the heat to 500. Cook ribs uncovered until they are glazed and browned, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and serve.

Yours in Good Taste,
Fa La La La La
The Polymath

Friday, December 24, 2010

Snacember 24

For those of you who tuned in a couple of days ago, I reported that my Charming Suitor had popped the big question, to which I said yes, making him my Charming Fiance.  Except, as he has informed me this morning, that while he is delighted to be affianced to me and is looking forward to making me his wife very soon, he has every intention of continuing to woo me for the rest of our lives together, and therefore, Charming Suitor he shall remain here in print!

But make no mistake based on the semantics, the engagement is very on, we are all floaty and schmoopy, and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from everyone.  To all who commented with your good wishes, we both thank you most humbly.

Now, let me just take this moment to say to you all...


A little holiday message from me....

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope Santa brings you everything you want, that Aunt Martha doesn't get schnockered on the Nog and go all Truth Telling at dinner, and that the turkey is neither dry nor raw.

For those of you who do not celebrate Christmas, I hope you are either doing what I do, and glomming on to someone else's celebration, or simply enjoying a lovely winter's night.

Charming Suitor and I are off to bask in the glow of R&R's tree and hospitality.  There will be Swedish meatballs, and Amazing Goddaughter will open her presents, and Officer K and Charming Suitor will continue their ball-busting bromance, and all will be right with the world.

As a fun little holiday gift, the people at Bon Home sent us a couple of their toys, just in time for holiday entertaining.

The heat and dry dishrack is freaking amazing.  We set it up at Charming Suitor's house, where there is no dishwasher, and it works like a charm!  The dishes were ready to put away with no water spots in about 15 minutes.  He loves it!  Great large capacity, quiet, and most of the parts can go in the dishwasher.  Perfect for those endless wineglasses and good china this time of year.

And we are excited to have this heat lamp for keeping food warm on a buffet, as we have a gaggle coming over on New Year's Day, and the food needs to maintain for a few hours.

Whee!  New toys.  Check them out, I think you'll like them, and while you won't have them in time for Xmas, you might be able to sneak them in for New Year's celebrations if you jump on it now!

I hope all is right in your world as well.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Snacember 23

Do you love your kitchen?  Or do you hate your kitchen? 

I have a love/hate relationship with my kitchen.

On the one hand, for an old building, my kitchen is a decent size, and even rarer, it has an awesome dishwasher.  Charming Suitor and I can cook easily in it together, even for dinner parties and the massive Thanksgiving feast we did this year.  And while the layout is a little weird, and there isn't enough storage (my fault for volume, not the kitchen's for size), and the counter space is mostly works for me. 

On the other hand, the stove is electric, not gas, the refrigerator is around the corner, and the limited counters are formica.  And the floor is ghasly 1976 linoleum in a harvest gold fake brick pattern that always looks a little dirty.  And don't get me started on the tiles.

I gave up a while back on making big cosmetic changes, and have focused on making functional changes.  I have been slowly reorganizing drawers, purging unused equipment, streamlining processes.  One of the projects I have wanted to do forever is to figure out how to work with the lower cabinets that flank the stove.  They are roomy, but very deep, turning them into a black hole for gear, and requiring that you pull everything out every time you need something.

Deadly black hole of Tupperware!



Then a rescue!  Shelves that Slide sent me shelves on rails that work like shallow drawers, so that the cabinets become a billion times more useful!  No more shoving everything in and pulling everything out every minute.

SHUT UP!  How pretty is this????

So much easier!


Even better, they were really easy to install, and when I looked on their website, VERY reasonably priced. They work like a dream.  Makes me wish I had more cabinets so I could get more of them!  They are all custom made, so you will get the perfect thing for your cabinet, and they have a variety of styles.  Five stars!

What do you love about your kitchen?  What do you want to change?  What kitchen organization tool has made the biggest improvement? 

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snacember 22

I interrupt this previously scheduled post for a quick announcement.

They say with momentous news, it is better to just get it out, no preliminaries, no qualifiers, like ripping off a band-aid.  And you all have been so lovely and supportive of me and my life, that I feel the need to be honest with you all.

I no longer have a Charming Suitor.

No one is more shocked than I, I can tell you that.  After all, we have been talking about the future together for so long, that I was pretty sure that 2011 was going to be the year he popped the question.

Apparently I was wrong.

He didn't want to wait that long.

I am beyond delighted to share with you all that while I may not have a Charming Suitor anymore, I do have a freshly minted Charming Fiance, who surprised me last night with the world's loveliest proposal, which I think I said YES to about every third word he got out of his mouth, poor man.  I know I share a lot, and I also know that you all will understand that I am keeping the specifics between he and I and the family....he signed on for me, not particularly for the whole public internet persona thing, and he has been a very good sport since the beginning.  But I know that he approves of my need to share the joy with you all!  Suffice it to say it was romantic, and exceeded all expectations, and I am floating on air and can't stop grinning.  Especially since along with him I also get the whole Charming Family!  As you all know, I adore my own family to to point of near delirium, and it has been one of the best things about CF to watch him fit in and build relationships and really fully embrace my family and be embraced by them.  And now I get to double my immediate family...HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!

I am about the luckiest girl on the planet.

And now that I have shared the news, I return you to your previously scheduled post, which may not be nearly as exciting as an engagement, but does include a recipe for fudge, so how bad could it be?

Remember when the airlines used to give you snacks, instead of asking you to cough up fourteen bucks for a stale cookie the size of your head or a tube of Lay's Fake Pringles?  Remember when the best thing they could give you were these cookies?

Spicy, sweet, not quite ginger snaps, not quite snickerdoodles, the Biscoff cookie of flights gone by is actually a version of a cookie called, somewhat ridiculously, a Speculoos.  A spice shortbread cookie, often made with a combination of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginver and white pepper, not to mention dark brown sugar, these crisp beauties are addictive.

But aren't you sick to death of cookie recipes by now?

Thought so.

A while back, I discovered that the people who make the fabulous cookies, also make this:

This is Speculoos paste, tastes just like the cookie, but has the texture of creamy peanut butter.  YUM!  So I thought, hey!  What if I took a yummy cookie flavor and made candy instead?  How about Speculoos Fudge! 

This is insanely easy, comes together in about 10 minutes, and will get you out of your cookie rut.  Perfect for gifting.

(If you can't find the paste, or just want to make it yourself, take a package of the cookies and whir in a processor till powdery. Add about 1/4 cup coconut oil, 3 T sugar, a dash of vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon, and drizzle in canola oil till you get the texture you want, you're looking for peanut butter texture here.)

You're welcome.

Speculoos Fudge

Butter, for greasing pan
1 (14 oz. ) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. high-quality white chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup Biscoff paste, room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Sea salt, approximately 1/2 tsp
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t ground white pepper
pinch ground clove
pinch ground cardamom

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides, to mke it easier to get the fudge out of the pan.

In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, chocolate chips, biscoff paste, and butter.

Make a double-boiler by setting the bowl over a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and thick, 5 to 7 minutes.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula. Mix the salt and spices toether, and sprinkle over the top of the fudge.  Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.  Cut into squares (I can get 64 out of this!) and serve.

Yours in Good And Deliriously Happy Affianced Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snacember 21

Whose dumb idea was this Snack a Day December anyway?  Yeesh.  Even I am bored of me, and I LOVE ME.  Seriously.  I could spend hours with me.

It seemed like such a good idea back in November, when I was bathed in the afterglow of a delicious Thanksgiving.  But here I am, ten days to go, and lets be honest...pickin's are getting a little slim in the old idea file. 

So today, I give you, for no particular reason...

Literal Video Total Eclipse of the Heart

Because if you are working a normal job, this is the week you spend futzing around online pretending to work, and counting hours till you are released for the holiday weekend.

If you are not familiar with the Literal Video movement, it is videos of popular songs, many of them from the 80s, my favorite decade, redubbed with lyrics that describe the action in the video.  Literally. 

I dunno about you, but they make me laugh till I almost pee myself.  So I thought I would share my favorite.

What are your guilty pleasure YouTubes? Share with the class...

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snacember 20

First off, CONGRATS to Riann, for winning the best kids holiday not only renewed a childn's faith in Santa, you made him excited to get underwear for Christmas.  Brava.  E-mail me your address at staceyballisinfo (at) gmail (dot) com and I will send you your Make Your Own Gummies Kit!

I don't know if it is cold where you are, but it is bitter here in Chicago!  And as we know, it stays this way for long stretches.  Like November thru May.

Chicagoans are proud of our ability to suffer the cold.  I am no exception.  I am one of those insane people who actually gears up to go to the Bears games in the winter...

I get this illness from my Dad, who has, as you can see, given it to my sister as well.

It is much more fun when they win, which they spectacularly did not on this occasion.  But I digress.

The thing about so much cold is that it requires a pretty serious repetoire of comforting stews and soups and such.  Because a warm bowl of comfort is much needed when one has done things like sit outside in 40 mile an hour winds and snow and ten below zero windchill to watch a team get spanked.


Eventually, you get a little tired of the standard chilis and ubiquitous beef stew.  And then you need something new.  Something fresh.

This is my twisty new take on an old French classic, Blanquette de Veau.  In the traditional Blanquette de Veau, a creamy veal stew, there is an abundance of mushrooms.


As I have mentioned before, HERE, I don't like most mushrooms.  I especially don't like the white button mushrooms that this dish calls for.  However, I do like veal, and creamy oniony sauces that get sopped up by rice or noodles or potatoes, and I especially like that it is a more elegant and refined stew, which makes it lovely for dinner parties. 

So, I changed it.  I swapped out the mushrooms (GACK!) for parsnips, which add the necessary vegetable bulk, and a subtle sweetness that actually works very well!  Yay me!  (A lot of recipes call for carrots, which I think are too sweet, and I don't love the orange color in my soothing pale stew.  Try the parsnips, they are just, well, better!)

Give it a try and let me know what you think. 

Stacey's Almost Blanquette De Veau

6 cups chicken stock
3 pounds veal shoulder in cubes
1 medium onion, quartered
1 celery stalk, in 1-inch pieces
2 leeks (white part), chopped
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 sprigs thyme
3 T chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and ground white pepper
10 ounces pearl onions, peeled
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup heavy cream

In a 4-5 quart casserole place stock, veal, onion, celery, leeks, thyme and parsley sprigs, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, skimming frequently.

Boil pearl onions for 3 minutes. Drain. Heat oil and cook parsnips and onions until lightly colored and tender. Set aside

When the veal is tender, drain it. Reserve 3 cups stock, discarding vegetables and herbs. Wipe out casserole and melt butter in it. Whisk in flour, cook for a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste . Whisk in stock, cook 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Whisk in cream. Add veal, parsnips and onions. Simmer 5 minutes and taste for seasoning. Serve over rice, buttered noodles, sauteed gnocchi, or with buttered new potatoes, garnished with chopped parsley.

Do you have any classic dishes that you have altered to suit your personal tastes?  Do share with the class!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snacember 19

This just makes me laugh.  Not at all holiday related, but a funny little snack all the same.  Enjoy!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Snacember 18

In a very strange twist, I have discovered that one of the best holiday side dishes, easy to make, excellent reheated, travels well, can be eaten room temp or hot, and goes beautifully with the traditional Christmas  proteins of ham and crown roast of pork and prime rib and turkey is....

Noodle kugel.

Yup.  That very traditional Jewish dish of egg noodles in a creamy slightly sweet custard, the centerpiece of the Yom Kippur breaking of the fast, and the Rosh Hashanah brisket playmate, it really is delicious with everything!  And I love the idea of incorporating dishes from other traditions in your holiday meals.

So here is my family's recipe.  I often double it and make two to bring to the buffet, since it is great for breakfast as well, and means the hosts don't have to get up early and fix something for themselves and any houseguests.  I also sometimes bake it in muffin tins for pretty individual servings.

Noodle Kugel

16 ounces broad egg noodles
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
16 oz.cottage cheese
16 oz.sour cream
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup crushed cornflakes
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4-1/2 cup sugar

Cook noodles in boiling salted water according to package direction. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, mix the noodles with the melted butter, cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Pour into a greased 9x13 inch pan. In a separate bowl, mix the cornflakes, cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the cornflake mixture on top of the noodle mixture. Bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until the top is brown.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snacember 17

Favorite heart-warming kids tale ever....

The crazy Christmas house on my street...gets bigger every year!

A very good friend of the family, who is Jewish, was in the mall with her four-year-old.  He spotted Santa, and asked if he could go see him.  The line wasn't very long, so she said yes.  When her son got to the front of the line she saw him having a very serious conversation with Santa, who then motioned to his helper elf to hold the line.  Santa escorted her son back over to her.

"I'm a little curious about your son's request." Santa said.

"What did he ask for?"

"Well, I asked him what he wanted for his present, and he said he didn't need any presents, that his mommy and daddy and grandparents buy him lots of good presents.  So I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and he said "We could really use some decorations!" "

She laughed and told Santa that they were Jewish, but the only ones on their block, so they are surrounded by twinkle lights and lawn displays!

It was almost three years ago, but that one cracks me up everytime.

My other favorite holiday kid moment was last Christmas eve, which I spent with my Amazing Goddaughter.  They are a "presents on the Eve" family, so I get the pleasure of watching her open her gifts.  Last year was particularly special because my Charming Suitor, then so new to my life, came as my date and, well, Charmed everyone, including AG, which made me all warm and fuzzy.  It was probably the moment I realized that not only did he and I seem to fit, but that he was going to be a good fit with the people I love.  We were watching AG open her huge pile of presents, half of which are from real people, and half of which are from "Santa".  She got to one of the "Santa" presents and tore into it.  It was a large stuffed lion.  (She was going through a major big cat phase.)

Her whole face lit up and she hugged it tight and said "Mommy!  Santa got my message!  I asked for a Tiger, but Santa knew I wanted a LION.  Santa is magic!".

CS, who had his arm around me, squeezed me tight as we were laughing and said "She's amazing." Which she is.  And so is he.  I can't wait for this Christmas Eve, to see what Santa brings her and how she reacts.  Even better, is that now she and CS really know each other.  She was talking to her mom last week, and was saying that one of the things she loves about her grandmother is that she is such a good cook.  "Like Chef Denise, and Stacey, and B."  Her mom looked at her and said, "Uncle B?" And she rolled her eyes, with the five-year-old version of "Oh Mom, you're so silly" and said "Um, NO, Stacey's BOYFRIEND."  Kid has exceptional taste.

The house all lit up.  I can't imagine what their electric bills are.

What about you?  What are your favorite holiday kid stories?  Best one gets aGlee Gummies Kit, so you and your kids can make your own Gummy Candy!  A perfect cold day activity.  Comment below with your kid story to enter before 11:59 PM CST Dec. 18, winner announced on the 19th.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snacember 16

This is one of the most favorite holiday time pictures I have ever taken.

I love all the exuberant upstretched arms.  Whee!

Anyone with access to enough snow and some industrious youngsters?  Make a snowman.  Or four.  The rest of us will love you for it.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Snacember 15

Want to get out of the holiday turkey rut?  Go with Prime Rib.


Seriously, is there anything more celebratory than a huge hunk of gorgeous prime rib?  And they are dead easy to make...

My method:

Prime Rib

Preheat oven to 200.

Season outside well with salt and pepper and let sit uncovered at room temp for 30 minutes.

Sear in a heavy bottomed skillet until deeply browned on all sides.  Transfer to a roasting pan, ribs side down (you can use a rack but I often don't bother) and roast at 200 until a probe thermometer reads 110-115 degrees in the center of the roast (anywhere from 2 1/2 hours for a smaller roast to five hours for a monster size.  Don't get discouraged, the low and slow is totally worth it, have patience.

When you hit 110, crank the heat to 500 and check temp every 10 minutes till you reach 125.  Remove roast from oven and cover with foil, and let rest at least 30 minutes.

You'll have beef that is tender, juicy, and perfectly pink all the way to the gorgeous crust.

I serve with horseradish sauce:

Horseradish Cream Sauce

½ c cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 c sour cream
1 T fresh grated horseradish
Zest of one lemon
1 t lemon juice
2 T minced chives
Salt and pepper to taste.

Fold whipped cream into sour cream, then add the rest of the ingredients.

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snacember 14

Everyone starting to get a little "hurry up with the holidays already"?

Mid December, my energy starts to wane a bit.  In part, because Christmas is not the holiday of my people, and I begin to lose my heart-warmed fascination with the twinkle lights and generousity of spirit, and I start to go all "Really?  With the flipping Christmas music 24 HOURS A DAY, really?".  It matters not that my people wrote and recorded some of the best holiday tunes, there are only so many times one wants to hear Barbra do White Christmas.

I want to be able to go to the grocery store without being accosted by red suited fat men in beards wielding bells and buckets asking for my spare change, and go back to being accosted by plastic bag suited skinny men in stubble wielding windshield solution and rags asking for my spare change.

I try so very hard not to let the Humbug take hold, especially since I do get the anticipation of spending Christmas Eve watching Amazing Goddaughter open her presents with true wonder and loud exclamations of delight, and Christmas Day with some of my other favorite Gentiles, Officer K and his family, with the Christmas ham and all the trimmings.  Yum!  Holiday cheer!

But those wonderful celebrations that bring me back to the place where I love and appreciate this holiday that isn't mine are still a week and a half away, and I've been listening to freaking Sleigh Ride since Halloween!

Which means I need a moment (or five) of Zen.

If you are also having your patience a little frazzled- whether it is anticipating hoardes of relatives descending upon you, or the frustration of not yet being able to find the last Zhou Zhou Dream House or whatever your kid needs to prevent Xmas Morning Meltdown, or if you too are not of a background that includes Xmas as one of its holidays and are really sick of having someone elses stuff foisted upon you everywhere you go- here are my five best tips for regaining balance.

1.  Tea.  Really good tea, made in a small pot, and served with milk and real sugar, in a pretty tea cup.  With some cookies on the side.  I put it all on a little tray, and snuggle up in a cozy chair in my front window, a wrap around my shoulders and a good book in my lap, and for an hour or so, I just read and sip and take little mouse-like nibbles and let everything get back to even.

My teapot of choice.

Their winter collection, warming and yummy.

The perfect crispy spicy cookie to go with tea!

2.  Bath.  Hot bath.  Long bath. With candles.  And double bubbles.  And by double bubbles, I mean bubbles in the bath and in my glass.   I guarantee you that a long soak in fragrant water with a glass or two of champagne (preferably pink!) will lift your spirits tremendously.  Open that bottle of sparkles that someone brought to your last party.  Or pick up something special for yourself.  Gruet makes a very affordable and delicious sparkling wine, and yes they have pink, and they also come in half-bottles.  Remember you are trying to mellow out, not get schnockered.

I like stemless flutes for bathing, less likely to have a tip-over incident.  These are also great for parties!

For the most delicious smelling candles, I go with Kobo!

3.  Buttered Egg Noodles.  Seriously, I don't know why, but they always make me feel better.  I like the extra wide ones, but use whatever you prefer, or any other pasta you like, what matters is that they are slicked with the barest hint of really good butter and some salt, in a bowl on my lap.  I resist every urge to gussy them up with lemon zest or chopped parsley or cheese, and remind myself that what will make me happiest is just the simplest bowl of childhood comfort food. 

Plugra is my go to butter.  And it does make a difference.

4.  Eloise.  Yes, the kids book.  Eloise is what works for me, but you can grab any of your own childhood faves.  I am instantly transported to when this time of year meant winter vacation and no school and plenty of time to read and presents and everything wonderful. 

Eloise is my go-to girl.  I still want to be her when I grow up.

The Little House series always made me feel better, especially since I was not living on the prairie trying to keep warm in front of a wood-burning stove.

The Phantom Tollbooth is one of those books that actually can become even more meaningful when you come back to it as a grown up.

The Once and Future King sparked a lifetime love of all things Camelot.

5.  List making.  I know that list making doesn't really seem like fun, or particularly calming, but I don't mean the traditional lists that you have to make all the time for errand-running or grocery shopping.  I mean hopeful lists.  Wish lists.  Pretend you are a kid and it isn't inappropriate to create a totally materialistic list of stuff you long for lists?  Make a list of places you want to travel, or adventures you want to have.  Think bucket list.  Partnered?  Make a list of all the things you want to do or see with your sweetie.  Single?  Make a list of everything you want your future honey to be.  Dream big,  be honest, and take the time to fully indulge in the fantasy.  Yes, winning the lottery is a valid dream, I have all kinds of plans for when I do.  And no, World Peace and Cure for Cancer are not for these lists.  These need to be personal and self-indulgent.

Some things on my "lottery winning list"...

IPad.  Need I really say more?

Cutipol Ebony Flatware.  I want twelve placesettings of this like I want air.  Charming Suitor and I first saw this stuff in Montreal, and both of us immediately fell in love with the line from Portugal.  Both casual and elegant, and beautifully made.  Yum.

Queen Size Serta Perfect Day Waking Hour Mattress with Mega Euro Top.  Matress of the Gods.  The tallest, squishiest, most cloudlike mattress EVER.  I own my Princess and the Pea tendancies, and this bed is insanely amazing.

Thermomix TM31  This machine defies description, but for simplicity, lets just say it is a blender that cooks.  It also makes risotto. And purees of things that have a texture so ethereal it is like a mouthful of velvet.  They won't sell them in the US, but the Canadian ones have the same plugs and I'm desperately trying to finagle one.  Also?  I might have to hock a kidney, since these puppies cost more than all my other small appliances combined.

Some other things?  I want my books to go all bestseller, I want someone to option them for film and television, and to rake in eleventy million dollars.  I want to buy my building and convert it into a single house and hire NY Penny to help me and Charming Suitor make it the coziest most beautiful place on the planet.  I want a little house in France where Charming Suitor and I can hole up for a couple of months a year, meeting quirky locals and eventually being embraced by the community.  I want to never ever get another piece of Spam mail.  I want some doctors to discover the key to long life and health on a total pasta and chocolate cake diet.  I want everyone I love to get everything they want too.

Okay.  I feel better. I think I can get through the next couple of weeks.

What's on your list?

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath