St. Patrick’s Day 2020

St. Patrick’s Day is one of our favorite holidays, and I was determined to celebrate it as we usually do, which honestly wasn’t too difficult, because our observation of the day very rarely takes us out of the house!

I started preparing for the day a few weeks ago, which in retrospect was probably a good thing. New this year: a lot of my supplies were purchased at Aldi!

I was so well-stocked that our celebration began last night, with a dinner of Irish-style ale & onion bangers, plus homemade colcannon:

We set our leprechaun trap as we usually do, and, as always, caught no leprechaun. We did find some nice mint patties, though!

We enjoyed our traditional breakfast of Lucky Charms, and Irish Breakfast tea for those who weren’t interested in coffee:

We had a few special treats with lunch:

Even with nowhere to go, I wore green for St. Patrick’s Day (and Mary Blair March!):

And we enjoyed our traditional dinner of corned beef and cabbage, roast potatoes and carrots, and soda bread with Irish butter (plus leftover colcannon from yesterday):

And for dessert, we had our favorite Guinness cake:

We celebrated as we always do, and it was a fun and delicious day. There was something low-key about it, though…it’s hard to ignore world events, even when we’re having fun at home!

Tasty Tuesday–Shawarma Night

Watch out Taco Tuesday…you’ve got competition!

My new favorite assembly line style dinner is shawarma. I found a great quick marinade from Wild Garden at our local Asian market that makes it super easy to prepare, and it even comes in both chicken and beef varieties (we’ve tried them both). Sometimes we have pitas and sometimes flatbread, and I always provide a variety of toppings from vegetables and homemade tzatziki sauce to feta cheese and tahini, so everyone can choose what they’re in the mood for and make their own.

Here’s a look at creations from two different shawarma nights:

I’m really enjoying adding some new international dishes to our menu, and this one is definitely a favorite!

Tasty Tuesday–Bobunk 2020

“Ah, the days of Bobunk…”

If you’ve watched the 1990s Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, you’ve probably heard of Bobunk, the holiday that Salem the cat erased. Since we don’t know anything about how Bobunk was celebrated (thanks Salem!), we decided to make it a special family holiday that used to be know as Seamus Day. I’m not going to belabor the point, but we realized this year that we weren’t really looking forward to it, and we decided that we should just let it go, and have happy memories of Seamus Days gone by, instead of forcing a celebration and possibly ruining our memories of the holiday.

But we still wanted a holiday. And then it occurred to me (and I really don’t know why it took this long!)…Bobunk should be a celebration of our favorite restaurant, Beast Craft BBQ! And Beast has the added bonus of now having two locations to choose from, (or we can just bring the food home which is what we did on Sunday).

I don’t think we’re going to have a fixed date for this holiday like we did with Seamus Day, although I do like the idea of observing it the weekend after Valentine’s Day as we did this year. I do know that whatever day Bobunk falls on, we’ll continue to have something to look forward to every February!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Sweet and Spicy Turkey Melt

It’s been a while since I tried something new at Beast Craft BBQ. I don’t actually even know how long the Sweet and Spicy Turkey Melt has been on the menu, but I just noticed it over the weekend, and once I did, I knew I was going to have to try it out sooner or later. As it turns out, it was sooner!

The Sweet and Spicy Turkey Melt of course features a generous serving of Beast’s amazing turkey. But it also has bacon jam (yes, please!), jalapeños, Swiss cheese, and tomato aioli, all on wonderfully delicious (and perfectly toasted!) sourdough bread.

In my experience, when a restaurant claims to have a “sweet and spicy” item, usually one of those two tastes is more prominent, and the other is just a vague suggestion. It’s no surprise to me, though, that Beast strikes the balance just right. There’s a pleasant blast of heat from the jalapeños, but that is tempered by the wonderful flavors of the jam and aioli, which pair together beautifully. Oh, and I had to get a side of Brussels sprouts to go with it (still my favorite, and what I usually order, but at least I’ve tried a few other sides here and there!).

I’d say this is my new favorite, and it was while I was eating it, but let’s face it…pretty much everything at Beast is my favorite, and I’m not even going to bother trying to choose a single top item anymore!

Tasty Tuesday–Grocery Shopping Habits

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my grocery shopping habits, how they’ve changed over the years, and how they’ve influenced how I cook.

When Ryan and I were first married, our number one priority in buying groceries was sticking to a (small) budget. And really, that continued to be the driving force behind how I planned meals and wrote my shopping list for at least a decade. I shopped sale ads and clipped coupons. I was shopping at our local grocery store chain for the most part during that time, because Walmart Supercenters weren’t a thing in St. Louis back then, but if I could have shopped there, I would have. I did whatever I could to spend as little money as possible.

In recent years, while I still have a grocery budget (who doesn’t?!?), it is bigger, and I have more flexibility in what I can buy and where I shop. I do the bulk of our grocery buying at Walmart (now that we have Walmarts with groceries), because it’s both convenient and helps me save money. But I’ve added in some stores that I visit at least semi-regularly, which has really changed how I cook.

One store that you would have thought I would have shopped at during my more budget-conscious days was Aldi. Apparently, that would have made too much sense. I have to confess, I used to be a snob about Aldi. I thought that they sold items of lower quality. But a few years ago, when a new store opened in our area, I decided to give it a try, and I was pleasantly surprised! Now, it’s my go-to store for cuts of meat that I either can’t easily find other places (lamb, I’m looking at you!), or can’t afford at other stores (like the standing rib roast we had at Christmas and the tenderloin I prepared for Ryan’s birthday).

The other store that we’ve been visiting regularly for the last few years is the Asian market. Actually, “Asian” really doesn’t begin to cover it, because they carry other ethnic food items, as well. But we’ve encountered so many new items, some we’d never even heard of before, and that has really broadened our culinary experiences. Now one of our favorite things to do is just wander through the store for a while, looking for new things to try!

Here’s an example of some of the meals we’ve enjoyed in the last week, all influenced by my current grocery shopping habits. There’s gyros (which I’ve made before, but only after Easter with the lamb leftovers we sometimes have, because that was the one time of year I knew I’d be able to find lamb pre-Aldi!) made with lamb from Aldi and served on pita bread from a local bakery that Pan-Asia stocks. A new recipe of Moroccan lamb tagine (again made with Aldi lamb) appears in the center, prepared with some spices with which I don’t usually cook. And finally, beef shawarma, again served on pita bread from Pan-Asia, and also prepared with a marinade and topped with tahini I found the last time we wandered through the store.

I’m so glad I was both able to branch out and try new stores, and that I was finally able to let go of some (wildly incorrect) preconceived notions about where I shop…we’ve definitely benefited from both!

Tasty Tuesday–Holiday Baking 2019

We never did get around to making and decorating cut-out cookies this year (I think we’ll make that a Valentine’s Day activity!), but I thought it would be fun to take a look back at all of the holiday baking we did do, from Thanksgiving Eve through Epiphany.

16 Dozen Cookies (four different kinds):

11 Pies (a total of eight varieties):

Layer Cake:

Coffee Cake:

Bûche de Noël:

Apple-Cranberry Bread Pudding:

Gingerbread-Eggnog Trifle:

Lussekattes for Santa Lucia Day:

Crème Brûlée:

Epiphany Baklava:

Even without the cut-out cookies, this may have been the busiest year of baking yet…it was delicious fun!

Dinner for a Monumental Birthday

Today is Ryan’s 40th birthday (and Epiphany), so of course I had to make a special dinner!

He hadn’t yet decided what he wanted for his birthday dinner when I ran across whole beef tenderloins on the cheap at Aldi, so I made an executive (chef’s) decision, and bought one, telling him he could choose what I would turn it into.

He picked Beef Wellington, which I’ve only made once before. I think I did an excellent job this time, from the trimming to the preparation, and the sides of mashed potatoes, green beans with almonds, asparagus, and sautéed mushrooms were the perfect accompaniment!

It really was a lovely dinner (if I do say so myself):

Ryan requested birthday pie for dessert, so I made the peanut butter pie that has been a new favorite this holiday season, and our family’s favorite s’mores pie. It’s hard to see, but the candles even “spell” out 40!

Thus endeth another season of festive meals. I’m both relieved and sad that I won’t have another fancy dinner to make for a while…as of now, the kitchen is closed!

Celebrating the New Year

Even though I’m not a huge New Year’s person, I do like to make the two days of the holiday special, starting with our annual hot chocolate bar on New Year’s Eve:

This year, in addition to several varieties of hot chocolate, we had four kinds of marshmallows, crushed peppermint and candy canes, chocolate covered pretzels and Pirouettes, two kinds of whipped cream, and chocolate-peppermint cookies that I baked just for the holiday:

I love seeing how different everyone’s cup looks when they’re done assembling it:

Today we had our fancy New Year’s dinner:

The star of the meal was rack of lamb, which was a first for me (I’ve only made leg of lamb in the past). We also had rosemary potatoes, roasted carrots and parsnips, asparagus, fennel gratin, spiced apple rings, and rolls:

It was a very nice dinner, and not quite as much work as our big Christmas dinner was:

And, I made creme brûlée for dessert, which is a real treat!

I have one big dinner left to make, and then that’s it for holiday meals for this season. I know Easter is lurking around the corner, though, so it won’t be too long until I’m back at it!

Christmas 2019

I thought Advent went by quickly, but our three-day-long Christmas extravaganza flew by even more rapidly!

As always, our celebration began Christmas Eve morning, with a breakfast of Christmas Crunch:

New on Christmas Even this year was putting the final touches on Lego Hogwarts Castle, a project the Fab Five worked on throughout Advent:

We had our “pick out dinner” for lunch as we have for the last few years, and it may have been the best one yet! In addition to our Christmas Eve favorites, which included a few favorites from tea parties, too, we added a Volpi Salame plus a large basil roltini.

After lunch, we headed to church, where Ladybug had the solo for the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City.”

I especially enjoyed the Quempas Celebration.

It was nice to get a picture of the Fab Five in the newly renovated church sanctuary after the service:

We drove through the Way of Lights on the way home:

And then I took all of the pictures!

It’s always exciting to light all of the candles in the Advent Wreath!

Jesus’ birthday cake turned out a little better than last year’s, but not by much, because it fell apart a bit on one side. At least I could get a semi-decent picture, and the chocolate peppermint flavor certainly tasted good!

The entire family, including Ryan and me, received matching Christmas jammies this year, and these may have been the cutest ones yet!

Turkey joined Ryan and me for our annual game of Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, and he won by a lot.

Chickadee set up the nativity scene before I filled the stockings and we headed to bed:

We were up very early on Christmas Day, and I finally got pictures of all of the children while they were opening their stockings!

We enjoyed our traditional Christmas Day cherry coffee cake for breakfast:

But that paled in comparison to the beautiful Christmas sunrise…”A holy day has dawned upon us!”

Back at church, the adult choir had the opportunity to sing again, including these two beautiful descants:

Of course I had to get another picture after the service:

After lunch, we opened presents:

The rest of Christmas Day was fairly quiet…we watched Christmas movies, as well as a few episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which the Fab Five received for Christmas.

Yesterday, on Boxing Day, we had our big, fancy Christmas dinner. As always, I had fun setting the table:

This year’s dinner included roast beast (a standing rib roast that I found for a steal at Aldi), mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, Jell-O, and croissants, plus a festive Comet and Cupid Cabernet Sauvignon for the adults. I think I cooked the beef extraordinarily well (or maybe good would be better, if not grammatically correct, because it was definitely not well-done!).

We had a trio of Christmas desserts, and I hit pretty much every Christmas flavor except peppermint. There was cranberry-apple bread pudding with a vanilla cream sauce, gingerbread-eggnog trifle, and a chocolate Yule log:

And that’s the end of another Christmas celebration. I’m already thinking about how we can celebrate next year!