Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Fabulously Talented Friends: Christmas Gift Ideas

So, three cool things I'd like to announce regarding my wonderfully talented friends!  Keep these folks albums and books in mind when searching for stocking stuffers this season!

1.) Joy Deyo has released three songs off her new album Sweet Nobody.  (Click the album title to get an audible taste of her songs.)  She is currently in the process of raising money through KickStarter for the album release.  She is a wonderfully talented friend who has a sweet refreshing voice and who's music is set in chill tones.  It's the kinda music you want to sit and listen to with a glass of wine by the fire.  Prepared to get down right reminiscent.  For a glimpse of this sparkling beauty see her video here.  Oh and she just informed me that her brother, Jesse Deyo produced this album with her.

*Jesse was a roommate of mine back in the day and later married another roommate of mine - yep, I introduced them!  **Pats self on back**  There was a nice little group of friends that I used to hang out with in LA and it often included Jesse, Joy and their sister Joelle.

New Album: The Peace of Wild Things available now

2.) Paper Route, an indie rock band, is currently offering a free download off their popular album Absence (2009).  They are also offering up their new single "Better Life," all in celebration of their recently released album "The Peace of Wild Things."  My friend Gavin McDonald is the awesome drummer.  If you haven't heard this band before, you should.  They've toured with the likes of Paramore, Mutemath and Switchfoot.  Click here for the download.

*Gavin's Dad sold my Dad a cleaning business once upon a time.  We had that business for 13 years before selling it.  I also used to play with his older brother and sister and jump on his parent's bed...completely to the chagrin of their parents.
Storybound Cover

3.) My old roommate, Marissa Franks Burt just had a book trailer released in Spanish!!  Now being sold abroad and published by HarperCollins, "Storybound" is an enchanting young adult book that has been well received amongst many YA fantasy loving friends.  Click Storybound to visit Marissa's website, see the trailer and read a description and reviews of this engaging story.  This is the perfect Christmas gift for the tweenie bopper in your life!

*Marissa was my roommate both in Bible college and the summer after we graduated from Wheaton College.  She was the main person who drew me to Chicago to go to Wheaton.  I thank God for that little fact, often!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Capital Cooking Show with Lauren DeSantis

I have recently had the opportunity to write as a contributor of the Capital Cooking Show with Lauren DeSantis blog.  My recent post can be viewed here and is a review of the W's POV Lounge.

Lauren's site is a wealth of cooking and foodie knowledge for the Washington, DC area and beyond.  There are loads of scrumptious recipes on her site as well as reviews of restaurants, bars, cookbooks and other foodie flared things.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

International Thanksgiving Feast 2012!

The Traditional Meal Selections - 4 Tables Long
From age 8-17, I used to assisted my mother in cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 4-70 international students and immigrants.   I remember complaining each year about everything smelling like turkey days after every scrap of food had been consumed.

This year, Truro Anglican Church teamed up with Sovereign Grace Church to introduce traditional Thanksgiving celebrations to all of our international friends and visitors.  I was privileged enough to be able to assist along side this efficient army of volunteers in preparing and serving food for the 350+ people.  It was a wonderful success with LOADS of good food.

Sovereign Grace had their team of kitchen helpers divided into shifts to come and go through out the prep & service time.  Their sweet youth group members cheerfully provided parking assistance, greeters, created name tags, coat check cards, table and food service.  They even made cute little tags for the side dishes folk brought in for the potluck portion of the event in order to list ingredients in case of food allergies.

The International Potluck - 6 Tables Long

Though we had enough of the traditional meal items for everyone - turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and stuffing - guests were encouraged to bring a side dish and/or dessert to share.  From the potluck table we had everything from assorted vegetable sides, empanadas, Chinese dumplings, cold Korean-style noodles, kimchi, multiple rice & pasta dishes, jelly fruit salads, and fresh salads, just to list a few.  With over 20 countries represented, the food choices were vast.

I think every continent was represented except for Australia and Antarctica!

Desserts were pre-plated by kitchen helpers and the pie selections included traditional favorites such as pecan, sweet potato and pumpkin pies (of which there were probably 10 pumpkin pies) to peach, cherry, apple, blackberry, lemon and cream pies.
<-- This picture was take an hour before everyone was set to arrive and by the time we were ready to plate the desserts, this area was 3-4 boxes deep in cakes and pies.  I'm not sure how we even had enough hands to slice up and dish all the cookies, pies and cakes; but we mustered through.

There was one homemade apple pie that was so juicy and sugary, I felt the need to test a piece while cutting it up.  If I had known who made it, I would have stalked them for the recipe.

I wish I had taken a photo of the kitchen volunteers.  They were AMAZING!  Melissa headed up the organization and cooking of the food with Angela playing second in command.  Both ladies have had lots of experience cooking for large groups of people.  Melissa's family has owned a restaurant and Angela cooks the meals for Love The World, a ministry and church to homeless families and individuals in Fairfax that is run out of Truro.  It was an honor to work beside these women and see them in action pulling and carving turkey, making gravy from scratch and mixing truck loads of mashed potatoes and stuffing.  There were approximately 6-8 women helping prep and cook food from 2pm-7pm.  It reminded me of working in a super happy restaurant kitchen (if there is such a place).

I helped Carol and Sammi stir 4 double batches of pearled dehydrated potatoes till our arms ached.  It paid off though; I couldn't believe how scrumptious the potatoes were for not being "real."  Maybe it was all the additional melted butter I insisted we slather into the process?!   :)   Quite a few of the helpers stuffed fingerfuls of the sticky potatoes into their mouths as I walked the bowl over to be cleaned.  (Yes, they washed their hands afterwards.)  It was too buttery and creamy to resist!

Sovereign Grace Kitchen

Though I'm thrilled to bits to no longer be standing, I had a blast getting to know some of the youth group kids and the kitchen volunteers.  People had the biggest servant hearts tonight and it shone through.  The tables looked amazing with their festive decorations and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves during the program that David Case put together.  I'm especially thankful I was able to participate in such grand style since I will not be able to get away to be with family this Thanksgiving.  As always, Karen Kirk and the rest of the TIPS (Truro International Programs & Services) volunteers did a stunning job coordinating and arranging this event and I can't say enough about the lovely attitudes displayed by the Sovereign Grace volunteers who hosted this evening.   Truly the best way to celebrate a blessed year - being blessed by others.  I can't wait until next year's event!!

Please Note:  All the "traditional" side food items, dry goods and service ware were purchased at CostCo.  Table decorations, name tags and Thanksgiving stickers were purchased at Target and Walmart.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Recipe: Butternut Squash Egg Rolls

Fall is in the air and with it the smell of burning leaves, apple cider and pumpkin spice everything!

In an attempt to bring Fall to my kitchen and capture the classic flavor of the season, I decided to attempt making miniature pumpkin pies.  After contemplating the time involved with carving and baking a huge pumpkin and realizing I only needed to feed myself and a few co-workers, not an army, I opted for the shortcut version.  Butternut squash in old school Micky Dee's styled pies...

They were a big hit at work, but could have gone off better had I figured out a way to keep the shells crisp and crunchy during the 45 minute transport.  (Why does I-66 always have traffic?)  This isn't the quickest thing to make, but since it can be broken down into two easy stages, it is easy to throw together with a little preparation.

What you'll need:
1.) 1 Medium Butternut Squash
2.) 1/4 Cup of Maple Syrup (Please don't use the fake stuff!)
3.) 1/4 Cup of Softened Butter
4.) 2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
5.) 2 Tablespoons of Cinnamon
6.) 2 Dashes of Nutmeg
7.) 15-20 Egg Roll Wraps (Depends on how full you stuff them.)
8.) 1 Cup of Vegetable Oil

Kitchen Tools:
1.) Either a Large Cookie Sheet OR Metal/Glass Baking Dish covered in Aluminum Foil
2.) Large Spoons
3.) A Large Bowl
4.) A Small Dipping Bowl Full of Cold Water
5.) A Wok OR a 3" Deep Fry Pan
6.) Metal Kitchen Tongs - Use carefully if you have Teflon coated pans.
7.) Cookie Cooling Rack OR Layers of Paper Towels on a Plate

Instructions - Part 1:
1.) Cut the Butternut Squash in half and spoon out the guts and seeds.  Leave the skin on and place each half on the cookie sheet or in the metal/glass baking dish "bowl" side up/skin-side down.
2.) With your fingers spread a thin layer of the butter all around the top and inside of the squash.  Basically, any part facing you should be covered in butter.
3.) Pour the Maple Syrup and Vanilla into each half of the "bowl" of the squash.
4.) Sprinkle the top and inside of the squash with 1/2 tablespoon of Cinnamon and 1 dash of nutmeg per half.  Reserve the 2nd tablespoon of Cinnamon for Part 2 of the recipe.
5.) Carefully, so as not to spill the syrup and vanilla, cover the squash with aluminum foil.  This will prevent the tops from burning.
5.) Bake at 350 degrees for 1-1.5 hours, or when the squash is fork tender all the way through.  Test with a fork throughout each piece to be sure.
6.) Allow the squash to cool for 30 minutes.  Spoon/scoop the squash from the skin into a large bowl.  If necessary, pour out the syrup into the bowl before scooping.
7.) Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Cinnamon into the squash and mix well with a fork.  Mixing while hot/warm prevents the squash from being stringy when you put it into the egg roll.
8.) *Optional* Cover the bowl and place the squash in the fridge for future use.

Instructions - Part 2:
1.) Place the egg roll wrappers on a plate and place the bowls of squash and cold water nearby for easy access.
2.) Heat oil in a large wok or deep fry pan on high.  (Later, you'll need to turn it down to medium high.)  Do not test with water like you do with pancakes, unless you're prepared to maneuver quickly.  It's no bueno to have hot oil splurted in your face!
3.) Scoop two spoonfuls of the squash in the the center of the egg roll wrapper.
4.) Lift and fold the opposite side corners of the wrapper together - say East and West.  Then, fold the bottom corner up - say South - and carefully roll the egg roll up to the top corner - North.
5.) In order to seal the top corner of the wrap, wet the "North" corner with a bit of water from your fingers and gently smooth the corner into the body of the egg roll to create a firm seal.  You do NOT want ANY part of the squash to be seen or have air pockets.  If this does happen, something will burn or it can possibly explode on you if your heat gets too hot.
6.) Gently, carefully and quickly (it's easier than I'm making it sound) tip the egg roll into the oil.  Let it stay on one side for a minute before checking it.  Once it is golden brown, turn it onto the other side.  If you notice it is getting too brown, too quick turn down the heat to medium.  If you are cooking more than one egg roll in the oil at a time then a higher heat will be necessary.
7.) Place the cooked egg roll on the cookie rack or paper towels and allow to drain.  Cool for 5-8 minutes before eating.