Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

What a great weekend this Thanksgiving turned out to be. Although, truth be told it seems like forever since the kids were in school. I am very excited about tomorrow morning. A little thing I like to call routine starts up again and this mama couldn't be happier. Which was the opposite of Bella last night, who was utterly devastated when she found out today was Sunday---yes, she likes school that much. For me, it turned out to be a fantastic weekend. Starting on Thursday when, like tradition, my kids help my mom make the stuffing and get the bird all ready for the cookoff.

For as long as I can remember my siblings and I would gather together with my Great Aunt Nor and help her as she stuffed the bird. It's a time honored tradition in our family and I honestly can't imagine a Thanksgiving without it.

They kept sneaking bites of the dried bread as smooth as they could, as evidenced by the above picture of Chance who's trying really hard to smile but can't since he's got a mouthful of croutons. 

You'd think that they'd realize that there's about 500 other pieces of bread in that bowl and that we wouldn't mind at all. But I kept my mouth shut because watching them try to pull it off was way too much fun.

Earlier in the month when we changed to the November calendar on their chalk board closet the kids  came up with a list of all the things that they're thankful for. #7 and #13 still make me laugh but I have to say their list is pretty impressive. I mean, come on, Mia was thankful for her belly button, how cute is that?!

Another tradition of ours is to sneak out during the day while my mom is cooking and hit up the local movie theatre. We've been doing this since my childhood too. Karate Kid? Total Thanksgiving movie. This year we saw Rise of the Guardians. And it was cute. 

I also want it noted that this Thanksgiving was the third warmest in Chicago history. It was 64 degrees and we had the windows OPEN!! Chane is wearing SHORT SLEEVES!

By the time we got back I had just enough time to set the table and get everything ready.

There's our bird all warm and toasty.

Little man Chance was in L.O.V.E. with his tie. Which reminds me, I need to get him more ties. And bow ties too. I think this kid could really rock some bow ties.

The dinner was delish, as always. 

Black Friday was spent decorating. 

The kids get their own tree this year, which I scored for $10 at a thrift store three months ago. It's the perfect little 4 foot tree for them. I'm creating a very kid friendly Christmas in our living room in hopes that they stay the hell away from my tree. I get all kinds of cray-cray when they inevitably rearrange the bottom half of my tree.

They spent about about FORTY-FIVE godforsaken minutes in Menards picking out which types of lights they want for their tree. They opted for the bigger and brighter bulbs of course.

So yeah, not quite sure where Chance's pants are but that's not what I heart about this picture. It's Mia in the background. All prim and proper writing in her Christmas notebook. She's so fancy that one.

And by fancy, I mean train wreck. 

Mid-way through Black Friday I get a text from my college friend Tanya who was on her way to visit with us for a couple days. It was a perfect pick-me-up for all of us!

So we lounged, we ate, we drank, and we went bowling. COSMIC BOWLING. 
Which is like, WAY better than real bowling.

Here's two clips from our afternoon rave:

And we ended the weekend with a haircut. 

Happy Thanksgiving 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Interested in gaining 5 lbs. in 72 hours? A How-To Guide Part 2

Here we go folks, Part 2. For those of you following, my last post documented our ten course dinner at iNG which looked pretty great, huh? Well, here's what went down 24 hours later.

Not only was it great to have Ben stay with us for the weekend but my brother and his family came down from Minneapolis to have a pre-thanksgiving family gathering. My sister's birthday falls on Thanksgiving this year so we decided to celebrate her special day a little early. We also decided to have a Thanksgiving fusion dinner, instead of a full blown Thanksgiving dinner which we'll all have 4 days later. 

The rule was simple and straightforward: all dishes must incorporate ingredients found on the Thanksgiving table.

You might want to unbuckle your belt before reading this.

First Course by Rich
Sweet potato and cranberry stuffed mushrooms

Second course by Rich
Turkey bacon wrapped chipotle cream stuffed peppers & turkey bacon wrapped 
cornbread stuffed jalapenos. 

Can you feel the heat? They were awesome!! 

Third course by Eugene
Thanksgiving salad with green beans, dried cranberries and pecans 
tossed in a cinnamon balsamic vinaigrette.

Up close and personal!

learn to blanche your beans---it makes ALL the difference!

Fourth course by Eugene
Homemade sweet potato gnocchi's with butter and sage

Sorry, this was the only picture I got of this dish. But believe me, they were amazing!

Right about now the kids decided to do a conga line throughout the house. It was rather cute!

Fifth course by Ben
A Thanksgiving Empanada

OH MY GOD! Think of everything you eat on Thanksgiving and I guarantee he stuffed it into this baked empanada. Turkey, green beans, corn and stuffing all baked into a buttery pocket of yum. Don't forget to lather the cranberry sauce all over it. DELICIOUS!

 Sixth course by Ben
Apple pie and vanilla bean a la mode.  

I should mention that the apples were poached in a red wine sauce and had the most INTENSE flavor. This dessert was amazing. 

And if that wasn't enough, somehow we managed to end the night with cake.

Happy Birthday Gabrielle!

Yes, yes I know it was gaining 5lbs in 72 hours, not 48 hrs as the pictures suggest. You ready for it? Are ya sure? 

Freakin' Ben again! Waking up all early to get his griddle warmed up and filling our house with the scent of peanut butter belgium waffles, cinnamon and brown sugared bananas, corn flake encrusted french toast, candied bacon, pork chops and a veggie omelette.

I got indigestion from just typing that.



 Bon Apetit!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Interested in gaining 5 lbs. in 72 hours? A How-To Guide Part 1

I mean, come on, who DOESN'T want to gain 5 pounds 4 days before Thanksgiving and exactly one month before the biggest holiday cookie season ever?

Anyone? Anyone?

Dude, it happened to me. Well, at least I think it did. I haven't actually stepped on the scale to verify but trust me, it happened.

And before I commence a two week water and tree bark binge in order to reverse the past 72 hours, I will show you, step by step how you too can barely fit into your clothes!!

For starters, I would recommend inviting an out of town guest to stay with you. One that's preferibly from the West Coast, ya know, the healthy coast. This almost definitely means you'll need to order an italian breaded steak sandwich almost immediately after landing to show your friend what a REAL sandwich tastes like. Watercress and Avocado? Shah-right! Rickobene's baby!

It's definitely a plus if this out-of-town guest likes to cook and also takes weekend classes at Le Courdon Bleu. Which for sure means that you'll need to stop at 4 different grocery stores so that he and your husband can stock up on the essentials.

It's also highly recommended to accept a friend's invitation to dine together for a 10 course meal at one of Chicago's coolest restaurants.

Btw, it's only Friday.

But this 10 course meal? Holy gucamole, it was awesome. Course by course here is our Friday night's extravaganza.

Remember way back when I blogged about that amazing restaurant Moto? Well, this is the sister restaurant called iNG, short for imagining new gastronomy. Chef Homaru Cantu wowed us again--this time with a 10 course meal based off of the movie A Nightmare Before Christmas.

It's been said before that Chef Homaru Cantu is a modern day Willy Wonka. With a meal that stimulates every sense (and even alters some--you'll see) your dining experience is an culinary adventure.  

As we waited for our friends Tatum and Mario to arrive Eugene, myself and Ben, his life long homey from California endulged in a pre dinner drink.

Then the fun began!

First course called JACK'S LAMENT was an octopus and mushroom soup that was awesome!

I'm not sure how they were able to get the octopus perfectly cooked without an ounce of chewiness, but they did! And the rose petals in the soup added such an aromatic level to it all!

Look they even stamped Jack's face into the sweet bun!

Second course called THANKSGIVING TOWN was a trio of yams all with a different cream filling.

This was actually my top savory course. These bite sized yams were so delicious and the three different sauces were out of this world!

Third course called PUMPKIN KING was a parsnip and pumpkin hash served on a silver skeleton hand!

A+ for presentation, this hash also gets an A+ for flavor. What I loved about these dishes is that there was such an "autumn feel" to them. Cinnamons, nutmegs and all-spice was found in almost every dish. Speaking of a fall feel, this particular course was paired with a Spiced Cider that included about 10 different ingredients ranging from chai tea to pureed pumpkin and it was insanely good!

Fourth course called LAB OF DR. FINKLESTEIN was a carrot and horchata smoke soup complete in a hand held science beaker!

This soup was really tasty. One layer was cold and one layer was hot which added such a unique dimension to it all. The dehydrated carrot chip on top was a perfect companion.

Fifth course called FROG'S BREATH was a deep fried frog leg with mint, pearl onions and white truffle shaving. And deep fried delicious it was!!! Poor Kermie....

Sixth course called HOLIDAY TREES was a take off of when Jack went deep into the forest and discovered the different holiday doors.

This, my friends, was duck done in 5 different Holidays. Starting from the left was the Easter Egg , next was duck in a sort of St. Patricks's Day hash, candy corn duck for Halloween, Thanksgiving and then finally Christmas. And P.S. Thanksgiving was the best!

This concluded the savory part of our adventure which meant that four sweet courses were on their way. Are you ready for this? Have you ever heard of miracle berry or synsepalum dulcificum for those of you smarty pants? Essentially this berry, when eaten, causes sour foods to taste sweet. Found only in West Africa, this berry contains miraculin which is a molecule that binds to the tongue's taste buds and completely alters the way we taste certain foods.  With that in mind, wait till you read about this next course.

Seventh course called JACK IN CHRISTMASTOWN was a sour and sweet concoction that KNOCKED OUR SOCKS OFF!

See those two snowmen? They are made out of a gin and tonic foam and the white powder surrounding the luminous shadow is made from limes. Our waitor told us to first take a bite of the snowmen and the powder. I almost hit Tatum who sat beside me when I tasted how SOUR it was. Almost unbearable. Think of those sour patch kids times 20--that's how sour it was.

Enter the miracle berry.

On a spoon (not shown, sorry) were the berries in freeze dried powdered form--looked a lot like dippin' dots and we were told to let the berries sit on our tongue for at least 20 seconds. So we did. And after about 20 seconds we took another bite of our snowmen powder and OH MY GOD IT WAS SO SWEET. IT WAS LIKE A LEMON MIRANGUE PIE. 

Then we all sucked on a lemon wedge and wouldn't ya know it was like the sweetest lemonade.

This concept was SO awesome! Mostly because this dessert was made of almost no refined sugar at all! 

Chef Homaru takes this concept a step further when last year he lived off of miracle berries, leaves, and grass that was found in his backyard. I should mention this was for the show, "Future Food" and not for kicks. But his point is this, miracle berries allow us to redefine what we think of as edible. The NY Times wrote a story about Homaru and his miracle berries and you can read all about it by clicking HERE.

Eighth course was called ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE and was a chestnut almond bread pudding with homemade chestnut ice cream and silver berries. Which, I need to get me some SILVER BERRIES. Better than any berry I've ever tried!!! This dessert was in my top 2 dishes of the night!

Ninth course was called JACK'S RETURN and included a dark chocolate coffin over a bed of mulberries, gingerbread and chrysanthemum leaves.

This course was also paired with a make-your-own egg nog and whiskey combination.

The tenth course entitled SANDY CLAWS was wrapped in a cute little Christmas box.

When our waitor lifted the box up we were greeted with three different gelee's yuzu, persimmon and chocolate.

The dinner was a great success and not to mention fun and inventive! Their menu changes every six weeks so it looks like we'll be making another reservation soon.

So that whole gaining 5 lbs in 72 hours isn't over yet. Oh no friends, this was just part 1. Stay tuned for part 2 where Eugene, Ben and my brother cook up a 6 course Thanksgiving Day fusion dinner. Which reminds me, I need to go purge.


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