Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Beast Craft BBQ currently has a delicious winter special on the menu…buttermilk fried chicken!

This item is a staple on the menu at Beast Southern Kitchen & BBQ, and I’m happy that they’ve temporarily brought it over to the original Belleville location. It’s not your basic fried chicken, because it’s dusted with creole spices, which give it a delicious kick. The breading was perfectly crunchy…it didn’t get soggy on its journey from the restaurant to our house. And I love that they put a piece of white bread under the chicken to catch the spices and the drippings. The plate comes with four pieces of chicken, plus two sides, and of course if you’re smart one of those should be Beast’s amazing sprouts with pork belly, but there are plenty of other options, too (we especially love the bacon mac). I love seeing the new ideas the Beast family comes up with at all of their locations (check out their sandwich pop-up in the Grove, a perfect example of how they’re rolling with the punches and thinking creatively to make the best of a rough time for restaurants!), and I can’t wait to see what hits the menu next!

Celebrating the Pride of Mount Vernon

“Ladies and gentlemen!…The moment you’ve been waiting for!…The pride of Mount Vernon!…George Washington!” (From Hamilton)

I decided that, since we’ve enjoyed Christopher Jackson’s portrayal of George Washington in Hamilton so much, and since I knew we’d be watching Hamilton again for Washington’s Birthday today, I should also make the whole day a celebration. Actually, this was just the kind of festivity we needed at the end of February in the time of COVID-19! We started with coffee cake for breakfast…cherry, of course!

I got into the spirit of the Day in Animal Crossing:

The highlight of our celebration (other than watching Hamilton, of course), was dinner. I found four new recipes on the Mount Vernon website, all based on recipes from Martha Washington’s collection…chicken chasseur, popovers, carrot fritters, and stewed parsnips. Everything was delicious, but even I was surprised by how popular the fritters were!

Not too bad for a Monday night!

For dessert, I made pie. Cherry pie (of course!):

I threw in some ice cream for fun:

George Washington was a flawed man, as we all are, but he was a great leader for our young country, and I think these words from his farewell address to the nation sum up his character well:

“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.”

Mardi Gras in the Time of COVID-19

Of all of the things I would have thought would have been relatively unchanged for us during the pandemic, I would have guessed Mardi Gras would be it. Ironically, it was a much different holiday for us this year!

The church we’ve been attending since we were able to resume in-person worship last summer is located in the part of St. Louis known for its Mardi Gras celebration. While the festivities had to be cancelled this year, we did enjoy seeing all of the houses decorated for the holiday over the last few Sundays:

We always have pączki for breakfast on “Fat Tuesday,” but since I’m still limiting my grocery outings (plus we had a snow storm yesterday), I decided that this would finally be the year I actually made them from scratch. It was a lot of fun, and they were really delicious!

For dinner I made gumbo with chicken, sausage and shrimp, plus roast okra. Okra isn’t something we normally eat, and we were a little concerned about it, but it was delicious and not at all slimy. It turns out we were lucky to have it at all, because last week, the produce man at Schnucks said I was getting the first package from the first shipment they had had in over a month.

So, that was our Mardi Gras celebration in the time of COVID-19. Lent begins tomorrow, and I’m not going to lie…I still kind of feel like last Lent never really ended, so I’m not really planning on doing anything differently this year…I’m just hoping that this Easter might actually feel a bit like Easter should!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Eleventh Month

This is the penultimate month of a year of pandemic cooking. I certainly didn’t intend to do this for an entire year, but I also had no idea what a pandemic would look like or how long it would last when I began.

I guess after the last wrap-up, which was full of holiday meals, this one is pretty tame. We did celebrate a birthday and Burns Night in the last month-plus, and had a few family favorite dinners along the way, too.

Of course there wasn’t as much baking as last time, but we still made quite a few treats, including our traditional Epiphany baklava, a birthday truffle tower, and an amazing white chocolate lemon cheesecake:

Next month, I’ll finish up this year of pandemic cooking…I’ll probably cheat a bit, and wait until closer to the end of month to wrap things up, to make sure both of our family’s March birthdays get included in the summary!

Tasty Tuesday–Burns Night Supper

Yesterday was one of my favorite lesser-known holidays…Burns Night! While we don’t celebrate the famed Scottish poet every year, it is always a day we look forward to it when we do celebrate it. Since you can’t really get haggis in America (and I’m not sure I could get everyone here to try it even if you could!), our Burns Night Supper is always cock-a-leekie pie according to the recipe used by The Scottish Arms restaurant in St. Louis, as it appeared in Sauce magazine. I was feeling a little extra fancy this year, so I used cookie cutters to give the puff pastry a wintry twist:

Our traditional Burns Night dessert is always sticky toffee pudding, made according to the Schlafly recipe…with apologizes to Robert Burns, I think this is the “Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin’-race!” The cake is so popular, I’ve also made it for birthdays in the past!

What fun and unusual holidays do you like to celebrate?

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Tenth Month

This has been a good month for cooking! We’ve had some favorite meals and some special meals, and we even had two different dinners from Portillo’s, because this time when I ordered our Italian beef and sausage combo I added in an order of tamales (totally delicious, and we have enough left in the freezer for another meal!). I’ll admit I was a little worried about being able to find everything I needed for all of our culinary traditions, but while I did have to enter a few more stores than I would have preferred, in the end I found everything that was necessary.

We also baked all of the things. I’m shocked there are any baking supplies left in our town. The kitchen still smells vaguely like a bakery!

And a few special beverages for the holidays…hot chocolate from our New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar, wassail (which I’ve made a few times in the last two months), and homemade eggnog, which is a real treat!

You’d think that would be the end of fancy meals for a while, but Ryan’s birthday is tomorrow, so we’ll have at least one more special dinner in the next month!

Celebrating the New Year in the Time of COVID-19

How in the world do you say goodbye (or perhaps good riddance), to a year like 2020 and then immediately move into celebrating what we all hope will be a better, brighter future?

In our case, we did what we usually do on New Year’s Eve and Day…stay home. I made stromboli, one of our favorite dinners, for New Year’s Eve:

And we had our traditional hot chocolate bar while watching Apollo 13. It wasn’t as fancy as it has been in the past (finding all of the things I usually include was too difficult due to COVID-19), but all things considered, I think I did a pretty good job of putting it together!

Most of the rest of the evening was spent playing Animal Crossing New Horizons and waiting for the final countdown, if you will, while we watched Ocean’s 11.

Roald had some wisdom to share:

Aurora and Wade echoed my thoughts on the year, too:

After staying up far too late trying to place an order on Lego’s website (I finally had success at 1:30 a.m.!), I was up fairly early this morning, and got to see the ice on the trees before it melted:

Sprinkle must not have gotten enough sleep, either, because she was in desperate search of coffee:

I think Ursula summed up my feelings on the new year pretty well:

A new year deserves a fancy dinner. I went with cool colors for the table this time:

I kind of took the easy way out with dinner…I just made pork tenderloin for the main course, which isn’t difficult to make and doesn’t even take much time, but feels fancy. I also made roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts, creamed spinach, breaded artichokes, and rolls. We even had spiced apple rings, which are a favorite of mine!

It was a really delicious dinner!

After watching Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!, we had dessert, a hot chocolate cake. I won’t lie, I used a mix, and canned frosting. But I still tried to make it look fancy:

I’ll leave you with a gently misquoted toast to the New Year by Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H:

“Here’s to the New Year. May she be a damn sight better than the old one, and may we all leave home before she’s over.”

Happy New Year!

The Top Five–Food Photos of 2020

Today’s “Top Five” continues in the home and focuses on food photography. If there’s anything I’ve done a lot this year, it’s cook. I already did a lot of cooking to begin with, but between not being able to go out to eat at all, and wanting to find something nice I could do for my family at home, I upped my cooking game (in my opinion, anyway). And while I was cooking a lot, I decided to work on my food plating and photography, too. I actually think I’ve improved a lot this year, so at least I learned something!

The first picture I chose is from the very beginning of the year, when I made Beef Wellington for Ryan’s 40th birthday on Epiphany:

We have had shawarma so many times this year. It’s always a pretty meal because it’s so colorful…this is my favorite picture of that dinner:

I’ve also done a lot of baking this year, including this lovely carrot cake:

I found a new recipe for potato-parsnip soup, and not only was it delicious, it looked beautiful!

And finally, a picture of the dessert I made to accompany our fancy Christmas dinner on Sunday. I love the colors and textures in this picture!

Food can be a tricky thing to photograph, so I’m going to keep working on improving my skills!

The Christmas Feast

Today was the day of our big Christmas feast! Because of COVID-19, we didn’t have any guests to share it with, but I still made a nice dinner for the seven of us, and since we went to church this morning, it kind of felt like Christmas Day usually does!

As always, a holiday meal begins with a pretty table:

I didn’t make as much food as when we have family visiting, but I still think it was a nice spread. Beef Wellington, mashed potatoes and gravy, Brussels sprouts casserole, sautéed mushrooms, rolls, and cherry cola Jell-O were all on the menu. (We were also supposed to have creamed spinach, but the chef ran out of energy).

For dessert, I made a gingerbread Yule log with white chocolate bark and sugared cranberries:

It was a different Christmas feast than we’re used to, but it was still festive (and delicious!).

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in the Time of COVID-19

Time for a look at this year’s scaled-back Christmas celebration. Some things were the same, like starting Christmas Eve with a bowl of Christmas Crunch:

Some things were different…but not necessarily because of COVID-19. I had a fun time playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and helping Jingle deliver his gifts yesterday morning:

The Fab Five finished this year’s Advent project, Lego Diagon Alley:

And I played Animal Crossing some more:

Our Christmas Eve dinner was different this year…I ordered tamales from Portillo’s, and we had them before church.

I always take pictures before church. This year, I took two sets. One with the year’s hottest accessory:

And one without:

This year, we attended an outdoor Christmas Eve service. It was cold, so we weren’t too sad it was short (although I missed all off the familiar Christmas hymns!). We did chuckle when a helicopter flew over during “Silent Night,” drowning out the singing!

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

For Jesus’ birthday cake this year, I made a peppermint chocolate cake with two kinds of frosting (white chocolate peppermint buttercream inside, and an Italian buttercream outside). I think this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made!

Of course there were new Christmas jammies:

We skipped playing Ticket to Ride on Christmas Eve, so I just had to fill the stockings and set up the nativity scene under the tree before bed:

We didn’t have to get up early, so we enjoyed our traditional Christmas morning coffee cake a little later than usual (but not much):

And since we didn’t have a Christmas Day service to go to (probably the biggest disappointment of the holiday for me), we opened presents in the morning, which was very strange!

We had our traditional Christmas Eve “pick out dinner” for Christmas Day lunch…and dinner (we’re saving our fancy Christmas feast for Sunday…stay tuned!). Here’s a look at some of the things we had:

We spent the afternoon watching Christmas movies, including my very favorite, White Christmas. We played our annual Christmas Eve game of Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries tonight. And since we were a day late, we also played the new Ticket to Ride game Ryan gave me, the 15th anniversary edition with clear trains, which I love! Everything is different this year…we might as well embrace it!

“Hail, O everlasting morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem:
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!'”

Merry Christmas!