Friday, November 30, 2012

November Five Fabulous Finds

1. Smoked Cheese
In October's Five Fabulous Finds I mentioned  Michelle Obama's recipe for macaroni and cheese made with cauliflower that I had slightly modified.  One of those modifications was that I used smoked Gouda.  In the past month I have come to the realization that  I love smoked cheese. - any kind of smoked cheese.  We made butternut squash and crispy kale pizza the other night and used smoked mozzarella.  It was awesome!  Brooke then made leak bread pudding for Thanksgiving in which she used smoked cheddar.  The smoked cheeses took each of these recipes over the top.  This latest obsession led to investigate just how one goes about smoking cheese.

Weber smokes our Thanksgiving turkey.  This year Brooke asked that he also smoke some kosher salt for her.  Surely we have the basic tool necessary to smoke cheese - the smoker.  I googled smoked cheese.  I found this,  a YouTube video that shows you how to smoke cheese in an electric smoker. Score!

We will have to try this during the Christmas break.

2. is a site with a digital library for photographers.  I discovered them while trying to find some tips for something I was trying to do with my camera.  They sell all kinds of photography books from the basics for true beginners to stereo photography.  

One thing that I particularly like is that they offer some basic photography courses that are camera specific.  When information is being given about the shooting menu or where certain buttons and controls are located, the illustrations and commentary are relative to your specific camera.  The books are well written, thorough but easily accessible.

As an aside, their customer service is friendly and helpful as well.  Somehow, I was attempting to download one of the books to my iPad and failed miserably.  In trying multiple times, I exhausted my allotted number of downloads.  I emailed customer service and they made some suggestions as to what the problem might be a reauthorized my download.  I had no problems this time.  They then followed up the next day just to make sure that I was able to access the book this time.

3. Thanksgiving List
I read about this new book

Like I have mentioned recently, Thanksgiving is not my favorite when it comes to holidays so I was not too interested in a book about Thanksgiving, even if it was a cookbook.  I did, however, find the following, excerpted from Sam Sifton’s book, to be enlightening and a little entertaining.

10 Laws of Thanksgiving Dinner
by Sam Sifton

1. Let me speak plainly: you are going to need a lot of butter. Thanksgiving is not a day for diets, or for worrying about your cholesterol. It is a day on which we celebrate the delicious. And there is precious little on a Thanksgiving menu that is not made more delicious by butter. (Note: It should be unsalted butter. There is something magical about a piece of toast with salted butter. But for Thanksgiving, you want the unsalted variety, so that it is you, and not the butter maker, who is in control of the saltiness of your cooking. Figure at least two pounds for the day.)
2. Thanksgiving is a holiday that anchors itself in tradition. Which means: You should make turkey. Turkey is why you are here.
3. I’ll risk starting a brushfire by saying with great confidence that the two most important factors in any credible Thanksgiving feast are the cranberry sauce and the gravy. Debate that all you like. But they tie every element on the plate together, acting as frame and foundation alike. Cranberry sauce only enhances what is already excellent, and good gravy can cure almost any Thanksgiving ill.
4. You can make mashed potatoes lumpy with a fork or a masher device, or smooth with a food mill or stand mixer. And of course you can make them without peeling the potatoes, if your scrub the skins well. This makes for an attractive, rustic-looking dish. Indeed, the only trouble that should ever present itself when the subject comes to mashed potatoes and Thanksgiving is should someone demand that garlic or basil be added to the mix. Your response to this heresy should be brief and unequivocal: No. There is no place in the holiday for a mixture of garlic and potatoes, much less basil and potatoes. The flavors clash with the turkey and other sides. No.
5. Start serving drinks the minutes your guests arrive, no matter the hour. Thanksgiving is not a time to judge.
6. When hosting, do not be afraid to delegate.
7. Dessert need not be extravagant. It absolutely should not be experimental or overly cute. It must not involve individual tartlets or parfaits, nor marshmallows in any form. Save the chocolate for nights of depression and anxiety. Instead, focus on the proper execution of the American classics: apple pie, for instance, with a mound of whipped cream, or pumpkin pie with same. These represent Thanksgiving’s highest achievement. They are an explanation of American exceptionalism, in pastry form.
8. There is no “right” wine for Thanksgiving, no must-have grape or vintage, cocktail or spirit. Nor is there a “wrong” one, though I’d stay away from the low-end fortified stuff unless you are in a boxcar, hurtling west. What you want is a variety of grapes and vintages. Encourage guests to bring wines that interest them, wines that they would like others to try. Additionally, lay in some specialty items: beer for your uncle who only drinks Bud; nonalcoholic sparkling cider for the children; and plenty of Diet Cokes and ashtrays for those who no longer drink.
9. If you find yourself as a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving, there is no finer gift to bring than a pie and a bottle of brown liquor.
10. As everyone takes a seat and prepares to eat, there is the delicate moment where you or someone at the table should ask for everyone’s attention, and offer thanks to one and all for being present, and for helping out. This is extraordinarily important. It is the point of the entire exercise. William Jennings Bryan wrote, “On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge our dependence.” I think that’s just about right.

4. Chocolate Chip Scones
On Thursday evenings, Weber and I have been taking an ongoing class.  It has quickly become a tradition to stop at Dunn Bros. Coffee on our way home and get a pastry.  Though everything that I have had from Dunn Bros. Provisions Bakery has been great, my favorite has become the chocolate chip scones - not too heavy, not too sweet and with chocolate.  They are absolutely perfect with a nice bold cup of coffee.

When Brooke was home last week, she asked if there was anything in particular that I wanted her to bake.  My recent obsession with chocolate chip scones immediately came to mind.  Brooke makes an awesome vanilla scone; all she would have to do is throw in a few chocolate chips and voila!

Literally as she was walking out the door to fly back to Chicago, she filled a plastic bag with ready-to-bake scones.  She also kindly wrote the cooking instructions in purple Sharpie on the bag.  

Last night being Thursday night, I had the first of Brooke’s scones.

All I can so is “Yum! These are worth every calorie!

I sent this picture to Brooke as a "thank-you."  Her response, "You can tell they are good because you can see the layers of butter."  

5. Scramble With Friends
One of my students introduced me to this game. 

It is much like the board game Boggle.  In two minutes, you have to find as many words as can that can be created using contiguous letters.

Yes, it is one of those games played on your phone or iPad.  Yes, it is addictive.  Yes, I have multiple games going at any given time.  Yes, I most often get beat.  Yes, it is still fun.