Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Shah (now Shah-Hoppenfeld) Tex-Med Holiday Extravaganza! AKA Thanksgiving 2014 in Review

My whole family is vegetarian. Well, my immediate family. For generations, we have been vegetarian. When my parents first moved to this country, that was a bit of a novelty. There weren't vegetarian restaurants galore, and whole foods selling all varieties of "fake meat." There was peas, cabbage, beans, and the occasional magic of tofu. Obviously this is hyperbole (sort of), but it's how they felt when they described it to me.

So obviously we never had the ginormous turkey for thanksgiving, and whatever it is people eat for the winter holidays. But my mom, always the light and life of our family, had a brilliant idea when I was a little girl of tex-mex holidays. After all, we love (no hyperbole) Taco Bell for it's vegetarian-friendly-at-no-extra-cost menu, so why not? Thus was born, the Shah (now Shah-Hoppenfeld) Tex-Mex Holiday Extravaganza!! No matter where I am, or who I'm celebrating Thanksgiving or the Winter Holidays with, I need Tex-Mex.

It reminds me of home, of tinsel wrapped around my banister, our big obnoxious plastic tree that was awkwardly bent at all angles but no one cared enough to fix it, my brother playing Golden-Eye, my dad looking at coupons for all the upcoming sales and separating out the worthwhile from the worthless, and my mom dancing in the kitchen taunting our dog with food singing "dancy-dancy, dancy-dancy, dancy-dancy-re!"  It might not make sense to you, but it makes perfect sense to me.

Now our family is bigger, with a lot more distance between all of us, but whatever. Nothing can stop the Shah (now Shah-Hoppenfeld) Tex-Mex Holiday Extravaganza. Full name, copyright pending.

So this year, we added in some new "traditionals" to the mix of our traditional. So along with tacos with all the fixings, we had cranberry sauce, brussel sprout salad, mascarpone mashed potatoes, and mushroom gravy.

So here's to what I'm most thankful for: a great family who will always add our own pzazz to tradition.

Cranberry Sauce Modified from Laurie's Little Kitchen. Made it 2 days ahead of time to let the flavors meld. I made it in a slow cooker, and just dumped all the ingredients in -- instead of water, I used red wine, and for the spices I used 1 stick of cinnamon and 1 anise. I took the anise out half way so it wasn't overwhelming, and took out the orange when it was done cooking but left the cinnamon stick in. Loved it, will make it again. 

Brussel Sprout Salad - From my head. Sauteed up 2 bags of TJ shaved brussel sprouts with some olive oil, soy sauce, and a little bit of balsamic just until the shavings were wilted. Then mixed in cut up dried apricots, slivered almonds, and pistachios. Definitely one of the evenings favorites and will most certainly make it again. 

Butternut squash and apple soup - Modified from a food network site. Instead of carrots, I used 2 apples and used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and butter instead of peanut oil. I also added in garlic and onion. Overall, a phenomenal and easy soup to make. Especially if you get pre-cut butternut squash from TJs. Can you tell I use Trader Joes a lot? Served with sour cream, creme fraiche, or mascarpone with scallions.  
My brother sniffing the soup
Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes and Mushroom Gravy - Definitely the winners of the evening. The mashed potatoes are from What's Gaby Cooking and the gravy is from Oh My Veggies. I basically followed both recipes exactly, except I used some Thyme in the mashed potatoes, and didn't peel them. For the gravy, I didn't use shallots, but instead used a red onion since I really enjoy the flavor more, and didn't use mushroom stock but used regular vegetable stock from Better than Bouillon (which I love).  
The evening's winner. Barely any left by the end of the night.

Our Traditionals -- Spanish rice, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, tortillas (corn + flour), hardshell tacos, chips, lettuce, beans, etc. It was wonderful, although I did learn that making spanish rice in the slow cooker does not turn out as well as stove top. Everything else was great though. 

Then of course the extras:
Krinkle in his bed.  
Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner with Tyler!
The Shah (now Shah-Hoppenfeld) Tex-Mex Holiday Extravaganza!

Monday, November 17, 2014

GF Cucumber Canape

My goal: increase the number of posts I churn out. I love to write, good or bad, I love to write...which any of my friends from college who knew me first year (looking at you Sam and Liz) will laugh at. But whatever, writing is cathartic and expressive and lasting. With a blog though, there's a certain pressure to post something interesting or funny, or anything people want to read. And sometimes it's fun to write for the audience, but mostly it's stressful, so it's way more fun to just write for me.

I digress from my main point which is cucumber canapes. I've been searching the web and my mind-brain, high and low, for gluten free thanksgiving recipes that my mom (and of course the rest of my family) can enjoy and I came across this little gem. It's easy to modify for what you like, and takes like no time to make.
A wonderful amuse bouche or a simple side dish. Hate goat cheese? Try ricotta flavored with sage. Or whipped feta. Can't stand olives? Go with marinated mushrooms. Or roasted red peppers. Or even marinated lemon slices. Want to change the flavor? Pickled ginger with a little toasted sesame seed oil drizzled on top.

Cucumber Canapes

1 cucumber sliced as thinly as you like
Goat Cheese
Topping like olive
Salt and pepper for garnish

My only tip is to make sure the goat cheese is at room temperature so you can scoop it into a plastic bag, cut off the tip and pipette out the cheese onto cucumber slices.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

4 ingredient Coconut Macaroons and Surgery

Time is of the essence right now. I pre-make all my lunches, pre-prepare my protein shakes at night so my breakfast is drinkable, set my to go cup under the coffee maker so I just have to press a button, and after much trial and error have all my clothes laid out in the most time efficient manner so that when the alarm goes off at 4AM, I can hit snooze once, and then tumble out of bed and into my work clothes. Brush my teeth and let the dogs out after I hit the coffee button, brush my hair, put on some mascara, grab my lunch, kiss the hubs, and pet the dogs, and BOUNCE out the door to get to work on time.

It's dark when I get there, it's dark when I go home, but the OR is filled with bright lights, and of course blood, guts, etc.

It's a privilege to be able to see inside the human body, to be able to stick my hands where no one else's hands have ever been before. Which sounds totally odd and gross, but it's such a surreal feeling when you realize, hey, that's small intestine that I'm touching, or hey, that's a beating human heart that I just suctioned blood out's nuts.

Then, if you're lucky, you get to suture. Take the U shaped needle in the needle drivers, and the forceps (not to be called tweezers as I was informed), and get to work on some tissue. Got vertical, go horizontal, no...hold it like this! Like a pencil, why are you putting your fingers like that? Don't tear the tissue! Excellent, that's right. Do it again. It's ridiculously exciting, and worth standing there for 10 hours barely suctioning and not spoken to, to have the privilege of feeling things, seeing things, and maybe even suturing things.

But time is definitely of the essence--study when you can, sleep as much as you can, eat when you can--my bastardization of a common phrase in surgery.

For me, bake when you can. Hence the 4 ingredient coconut macaroon that turn out delicious in under and hour. Dip them in chocolate, add in nuts, dried fruit, or any other flavors you want...crushed candy cane for the holidays? Pumpkin puree for the fall? Anything really...the macaroon is your oyster.
one kind of bad picture...I was too busy eating them to get a better picture

4-ingredient Coconut Macaroons 

3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla or almond flavoring

Mix egg whites, vanilla, and salt together. Add in the coconut. Mix together. Let rest for 10 minutes. Then form into mounds with your hands or a scooper if you have one. Make sure they're well stuck together.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, and then enjoy!