Nutty

Two years ago my sister showed up at Mother’s Day or Thanksgiving or Christmas – one of them – with a bag full of these spicy, sweet, salty nuts. They have a strange crack-like power on everyone who tries them. I decided to make a batch for our favorite aunt out in Long Island who takes our girl for a beach adventure every summer. In fact she’ll take any girls – all girls seem to be welcome. Boys too maybe. She’s good like that. She deserves some nuts.

This is the Smitten Kitchen recipe, quadrupled. Cause that’s how I roll.

4 Cups Nuts (any nut will do. Except the nut you’re married to), 1 egg white, 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, 1/2 Cup White Sugar, 2 tsp Cinnamon, 2 tsp Salt, 2 tbs Cayenne Pepper, 3 tbs water.

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Combine the sugars, cayenne pepper, salt and cinnamon. Whisk the egg white with the water until frothy. Add egg whites to the nuts and coat evenly. Add the sugar and toss. 

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Spread evenly in one layer on parchment paper and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before packaging. I made a batch of these last week to take to a picnic and found this cute candy bowl. The plan was to give the host of the picnic the nuts and bowl, but when he offered it back at the end of the night, I took it. I couldn’t help it. It’s so cute. The first batch of nuts I made were pecans, almonds, and walnuts. The clear winner taste wise in our house is the pecans – so that’s what I made today.

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Bros before….you know

We had a busy weekend. We picked up a kid at camp. We drove 3 hours to upstate NY and had a fun day with friends, came home, slept and then headed west to Harrisburg to see my family (and pick up the other kid).
We were also there to celebrate two birthdays and an Indian celebration called Raksha Bandhan (we’re efficient that way).
To be clear, there are hundreds to Indian celebrations. What can I say, we like lots of Gods and lots of ways to worship them. And by WE I really mean my people, not me. Because as I’ve told you before, I’m religious light. I dabble. The Catholic Irish Ukrainian dude I married is the same way. We do the big things. Baptism so the kids get into heaven? Check. Making sure they know how the Indian god Ganesh got an elephant head? Done. Mortal soul secured.
So we approach holidays in both religions with some whimsy. Don’t you think some of the problems of the world would be resolved with some whimsy? Whimsy is undervalued.
Anyway, back to the weekend.
Basically the celebration is about the bond between a brother and a sister. She puts a sacred thread on his wrist, dots his head with a red mark called a Tilak (red powder dye and water. Think runny red lipstick) and she feeds him something sweet. He promises to protect and love her and gives her a small gift. Lovely.
What happens if you don’t have a brother like me and my sister? You’re screwed ! Just kiddin. Our cousins step into the role for us.
Here’s some pics from the celebration. The last pic is of my cousins who payed dual roles, our brothers and the birthday boys.
Notice my sons face as my daughter feeds him the Indian sweet. Maybe next year she can feed him an M&M or something.
And speaking of tweaking tradition, one of the sacred threads resembled a football – so we chose that for my son. He missed the subtle cultural fusion we tried to create.

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I love secrets

I got a lot of great gifts this year – I’m a lucky girl. Last night we did the final gift exchange with my family – there is absolutely no more gift giving and receiving after this. It’s over. Done. No more I tell you!

My little bitty sister gave me this really cool book I thought I’d share with you. It’s less of a cookbook and more of a nonfiction book about chefs. Right up my alley!

It’s full of beautiful photos and recipes, but it’s really storytelling about the chefs. What they do, why they do it and how they do it.

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It’s written with a sharp biting wit and doesn’t take itself too seriously, look at these hilarious quotes…

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The other cool thing about this book is all the wacky food the chefs make. In the world of Instagram and 24/7 food trucks – where everyone’s a foodie and Harissa and truffle oil are almost old school – I love reading about unusual food. Lebnah… Tasso … This is no everyday kimchi cookbook. There’s actually a line on page 267 that reads, “This is not a traditional baba au rhum, so purists, stand back!” Wtf?

Will I ever make it? Probably not. But I will sleep better knowing that there are people out there that do.

Ok – gotta go source some Kajmak cheese.

checking in…

So whatcha been up to? Hope you’ve been having some Christmas fun. ¬†Here’s what we’ve been doing – non sequitur.

  • Started my Christmas shopping in September hoping to get ahead of the game, but the game won. I am still not done and it’s 2 days after Christmas.
  • Went to the ER the day before Christmas Eve (long scary story with a happy ending, all is good).
  • Made 12 dozen cookies. 12. Dozen. 144 cookies. Know what I learned? Even after making 144 cookies I still want to eat cookies.
  • Headed to NYC on Christmas Eve and came home with tons of great gifts and happy memories (and saw a truly ugly sweater, thanks Aunt Stacy).
  • Hosted a neighborhood gathering at our house a day after finishing my first week at a new job. It sounds stressful but it was so much fun. It was the perfect way to kick off our holiday fun – and I learned how to make eggnog. And I also learned that you can only drink about 2 cups of eggnog before wanting to throw-up!
  • Had some killer Chinese food on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Fa ra ra ra ra, ra, ra,ra ra.
  • Decided to cave in and get the kids a trampoline for Christmas. Look for future posts titled, “Why did we buy a trampoline?” and “Were we nuts when we bought the kids a trampoline? Yes!”.
  • Dropping off my girl for a session of winter camp today, sniff…sniff. It’s only 4 days but I really don’t like it when she’s gone.
  • Went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Don’t listen to all those Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a sweet, visual, musical movie. Does it have anything to do with the short story? Nope. But it does make you want to visit Greenland and Iceland – so there’s that.
  • Only watched A Christmas Story 3 to 8 times, much less than last year.
  • Santa brought our son some more inappropriate Xbox games. What can you do, that Santa is a crazy mofo.
  • My girl wanted a saxophone for Christmas and we decided to go for it. Instead of buying it outright (incase she changes her mind like the guitar. or the ukulele. or the harmonica. or the…) we decided to rent it from a music and arts store. What happened next was a tragedy of errors that resulted in us going to that store 4 times. I have only one thing to say to the 8 dudes that work there,” dudes, wearing a skinny tie and having a hipster beard only makes you look smart if you aren’t completely incompetent and stupid. You morons.” Sorry. That is all.
  • After we drop off my daughter at camp, we head directly to my parents house for Christmas Part Deux. Time to push aside the figgy pudding and make room for the garam masala.

To go with the bullets that make no linear sense – here’s some random photos from the past few days! I’m sorry the boy has no shirt on – but that’s how he rolls in the house. Just keepin’ it real. xoxo

 

Here’s me wrapped up in a blanket reading my new cookbook (Pioneer Woman!) and my son looking like an angel playing a killing game. I have guilt. Can you tell?

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Can you guess which plate of food is mine? Hint: it’s the one that burns going down.

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Even in her “ugly” sweater she looks beautiful!

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Here’s my two favorite men. I think next year they can switch places in the picture :-).

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She loved her saxophone, no thanks to the dopes at the music store. Sorry.

 

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This is my kids exchanging gifts they bought for each other. Is there anything better than that?

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To brine or not to brine…

All of a sudden, everyone is dissing the brine. It’s jumped the shark, they say. It doesn’t really impact the taste, they shout.
The tide has turned. The brining backlash has begun!
Ok not really. I’m just consumed by it tonight.
I’ve got turkey on the brain.
Here’s to a golden, juicy bird no matter what you do or don’t do to it!
I’m brining.
Just so you know.

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Our table runneth over

I don’t stress Thanksgiving anymore. Mainly because I do the exact same things year after year. I don’t experiment, I don’t jump at new fangled trends. I’ll never deep fry a turkey. I’m sure it’s great but it took me years to figure out how to cook it the normal way. You want your stuffing gluten free and made with kale? Sorry, no can do. Anyway – I’m good. I’ve got people bringing things – which is a huge help, and the past two years our youngest cousin has taken over the ricing of 20 pounds of potatoes! Done!
My point is. I don’t stress. Except when figuring out how to fit everyone at the table.
Here’s where I’m stuck. 15 people at one table is what I’m aiming for. But I have all the wrong tables and all the wrong chairs to make it happen.

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This is my original table. Isn’t it beautiful? Beautifully unfit for 15 people. But the other table is oddly shaped. And the chairs are too big.

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It’ll all work out.
As I was whining about the chairs and the table and the mismatch-hotmess of it all – I realized something and immediately stopped. I don’t ever want to have enough seats. I hope that every year our table gets bigger and bigger.

It’s like a slap in Thanksgiving’s face

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It’s sad when you pine for a blow-up turkey on the lawn. This is a house in a nearby ‘hood.
Can we take it one holiday at a time people? Can we? Please? Put up a light of two, but don’t break out snowmen.

I’m riding my pumpkins out until the very last day of November. Whether my pumpkins like it or not.

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