Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Memories for 2008

The best Christmas pictures are coming. My sister-in-law Jen took some great shots while she was here and she's sending me a CD, but I wanted to post just a few that I had in the meantime.

Sophie's undying love for Jackie, Wes and Jen's chocolate lab. (I love her, too.)
Stockings. My favorite stocking stuffer was my Edward the vampire poster from Bobby. He's so funny. (Bobby, not Edward.) He hangs in my closet now. (Edward, not Bobby.)
the Wii. The Wii is AWESOME. We didn't get one this year, but we got to play with Wes and Jen's. We wanted to, but we know our kids we'll be a lot more excited about it a couple years from now. So we're holding out. You've never seen someone so spazzy as me trying to play tennis. I was totally impressed with Hunter's tennis skills and Colton and Nicole rocked at bowling.
The last day Wes and Jen were here we played this for about 2 hours straight. Bobby and I have continued to play ever since they left. After playing about 30 games, we finally started keeping a running total. I'm at 5 and Bobby has 3. I came up with this idea right after Bobby's winning streak ended apparently.

One of my other favorite memories is being matchy-matchy with my sister-in-law Jen. We opened new pajamas on Christmas Eve and Jen and I picked out the same pajamas from Target. I don't have a picture of this, but I'll add one once I get Jen's pictures. Then on Christmas Day we wore matching track suits that I bought for us at Old Navy. They're velour. I love track suits. Remember how trendy those were like 5 or 6 years ago? Well I'm in the habit of hitting fashion trends about 5 years too late. Then, she wrapped up a pair of pajama pants she bought for me at Old Navy. When I opened them, I laughed because I had purchased the very same pair for myself the weekend before. I asked her to keep them so that we could continue dressing the same.

To be continued.... hopefully. I haven't been a very reliable blogger as of late.

Snow Days

I feel like a kid again whenever there's a snow day. Which is weird, since I'm pretty much home all day every day. I didn't get to experience "the snow day" growing up. (I did have the beach five minutes from my house, which is a hundred times better than any snow day- but still, I've always loved the idea of getting to stay home from school and watch the snow fall from inside a warm house.)

I got a call from the school saying because of some inclement weather, school was dismissing early. Sophie and I got in the car and picked her up and a few minutes after we got home, our little neighbor Tali knocked on the door and asked if Franny wanted to come out and play. Poor Franny has all the snow gear, but had never used it because her Mommy never plays in the snow with her. So I was THRILLED by Tali's invitation.

Here's Franny saying, "Tali, how do I look?"

Snow angels.

Running in the snow.

When she came back in the house 10 minutes later (which by the way is exactly the reason I don't like playing in the snow- all that work getting everybody dressed for ten minutes outside in the snow? I don't think so.) Like I was saying, when she came back in the house ten minutes later, I asked if she wanted hot chocolate. She said yes! When she saw me pour her milk in a mug and put it in the microwave, she said, "No. No thank you. No thank you, Mom." I was, "No, wait. Just try it. You'll like it!" She was reluctant, but when I promised to add a candy cane and some marshmallows, then I knew I had her attention. She scooped the marshmallows out with a spoon and sucked on the candy cane, but that's pretty much all I got. The next morning Bobby asked her if she wanted some hot apple cider. She said, "No thank you. I need milk. Cold milk."

Sunday, December 28, 2008


In the house I grew up in, there was a "room-closet" in the middle of the hall on the second floor. It was too big to be a closet and too small to be a room. It contained the entrance to our attic. I've always been afraid of mice/rats and I remember standing below the stair case that pulled down while my Dad went up to find something. I asked, "Dad, are there any mice up there?!" He replied, "No, there's no mi- oh no! A MOUSE!" accompanied with a very high-pitched scream to add drama. His wasn't the only high-pitched scream. He totally got me.

Anyway, that little "room-closet" was where my Mom kept the ironing board. (There have been too many digressions from the point of this story already but I have to add here that on the floor of this room was a burn mark from where my sister Julia left the iron on the floor for some reason and nearly burned our house down.)

I remember once when I was very young and the house was quiet I walked by the little ironing room and was startled to see my Mom on the floor reading. She was crying. I asked, "What are you doing?" She looked at me and said in a quiet voice, "I'm reading my mother's journal." And then I did something that I've regretted ever since. I said, "oh..." and I walked away. It wasn't that I didn't care. I remember feeling so sad for her. I wanted to give her a big hug. I think I must have thought that she just wanted to be alone. But every time I look back on that moment, I think about the chance I missed to offer my mom so comfort when she needed it. And about how there was one obvious and simple thing to do: give her a hug. Years later, when I was around 19 or 20, I told my Mom that I had something I wanted to apologize for. I cried and I told her about that time in the room/closet when I found her reading her Mom's journal and I walked away and didn't give her a hug. She just kind of laughed and said, "Oh sweetheart..." and gave me a big hug.

I don't like talking to Franny about anything evil, wrong, or sad. I'm sure a lot of you can relate to that. But she's quickly growing out of the stage where I can hide everything that's unpleasant from her. I feel like the way I've been dealing with my Mom's death has been pretty healthy. I find ways to keep her a part of my life. I think of her often. I try to remember the things she taught me and I talk to my kids about her. About her. Not about what happened to her and why we don't get to see her anymore.

There have been shockingly few conversations between Franny and I about my mother's passing. I mean, it's been nearly a year and a half. And sure, she's still very young. But you'd think that when it happened there would have been some conversation. When we rushed out to California with no planning and everyone was there except for Grandma, you'd think something would have been said about why. When I heard her saying, "Grandma's not here," doesn't it seem like I'd sit down and have a little conversation with her about why she wasn't there? Well, I didn't.

Franny and I stayed home from church today because she's sick. She asked me to come into the playroom so she could make me "dinner." I hate being in that room when it's in its current state. Sophie's in the stage where kids think that playing is dumping everything out of its container. I was hanging up one of her dress-up-dresses and asked her a question that sparked possibly the most important conversation she and I have ever had.

Me: Who gave you this dress for Christmas?
(Blank stare.)
Me again: Grandpa gave you this dress.
Franny: A lot of Grandpa's?
Me: Well you have Grandpa Howard, and Grandpa Warner. So you have two that we call Grandpa. You also have a Poppy. He's your grandpa, too. So you have THREE grandpa's.
Franny: What about Richard? He's a grandpa?
Me: He's not your Grandpa. He's your Uncle.
Franny: What about Kristy?
Me: She's your aunt. She's your Aunt Kristy.

A pause, and then Franny asks: Where is Grandma? (I knew she was talking about my Mom because Bobby's mom we affectionately call Nona.)
Me, with my full attention now: Grandma died, sweetheart.
Franny: She died? (Pause.) How did she died?
Me: Grandma got sick, and she died. She went to live with Heavenly Father.
(Tears welling up in her eyes as well as mine.)
Franny: She feels sad.
Me: You know what, Franny? Grandma loves you.
(Sad eyes)
Me: Do you miss Grandma?
Franny: No. (Although it's obvious by the look in her eyes that she really does.)
I say, "do you want to come with me and look at my special book about Grandma?"
Franny: No. (But she looks so sad that I scoop her up in my arms and take her down to my bedroom where the book is.)

(Snapfish and Oprah teamed up for a give-away last month and I made a book with my favorite pictures of my Mom and I, as well as some with her and my kids, and some stories about her as well.)

Me: Who's this?
Franny: That's me.
Me: No, that's mommy when she was little like you. And this is Grandma.

Me: Who's this?
Franny: That's baby Franny.
Me: That's right! Do you see that little picture between our heads of Grandma with her mommy?
Franny: No.
me: Okay... (not wanting to push it)

Franny: Who's that?
Me: That's me with Grandma and Grandpa.
Franny: No, that's not. That's me. That's you.
Then a little argument ensued over who was who and I decided to skip ahead to some more recent pictures.

Again I ask, "Do you miss Grandma?"
With tears in her eyes but still no crying, she said, "Yes."
I wasn't so strong. With a shaky voice and tears spilling down my cheeks, I said, "I miss her, too."
Franny: "What's wrong, Mommy?"
I didn't answer. I just gave her a big hug and I told her how much her grandma loves her and that someday, we'll get to see her again.
Then I asked her one of her favorite questions: "How do you feel?"
She replied, "Sad."

I wanted to get this all down because I didn't want to forget any of it. Now that I have I feel kind of relieved. I never meant to keep any of this from my daughter, but I think I felt like neither of us were ready for this conversation until just recently.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Toasted Chicken and Cheese Sandwich

I found these big sourdough sandwich rolls that looked amazing and started putting together the perfect grilled chicken sandwich in my head. Here's what's on it:

Chicken, seasoned and grilled (I used great american land and cattle co. steak seasoning)
grilled red onions
romaine lettuce
a generous slap of mayonnaise

Also, I toasted the bread under the broiler. I spread butter on the bottom half and sprinkled shredded mozzarella on the top. It was good.


I remember once when there were only three kids in my family, my Dad, my Mom, Julia, Richard, and myself all slept in our unfurnished living room by the Christmas tree. It was so much fun. I've always wanted to do that since we got married but we never have. This year we're spending Christmas in our home, with Bobby's brother Wes and his family. I'm thirty years old and this is the first time I won't be spending Christmas at the home of my parents. It's like a major milestone in my life. I've actually been a little anxious about this stage of my development as an adult. My parents, my family, my cousins, aunts, and uncles; the parties, the decorations, the traditions... it was always really hard to imagine pulling away from that and doing our own thing. But I am really excited. I think the timing is right and our little family is ready to start our own Christmas traditions. I know I'll miss my Dad and siblings, though. There is something so magical about Christmas at the Warner house that totally makes it worth the nightmare it is to travel over the holiday.

So, we're kind of starting from scratch when it comes to our own family traditions. So I guess you could say we're having a few "try-outs." I've been waiting for the perfect night for us to all sleep in the living room together. I thought it would be better to have it on a weekend night so we could let the kids stay up as late as they want. Last night seemed to be the night. All day I was in the mood to watch Home Alone, and I couldn't find it anywhere. I finally found it, right where it was supposed to be, in the same spot I had looked 3 or 4 times already. What?! I have no idea. Whatever. Anyway, I was thrilled. Home Alone may not have actually been the best choice, though. I haven't written about this yet, but Franny has been exercising an unprecedented amount of sass lately. I mean, she just exploded one day and started telling me to "shut up" and when I asked her to do something, I'd get, "No, you do it." So with the help of Melinda, one of my favorite people, and some helpers at school, the sass has definitely made a huge improvement. Now when she feels like saying "shut up," instead I'll hear her say, "what does shut up start with?" or "we not say shut up." But sometimes I'm not very smart. Sometimes I choose a movie for the family to watch with TEN instances of "shut up." I mean, little Kevin MacAllister has mastered the art of talking back. I tried to cough really loud whenever I knew something I wouldn't want her to repeat came up and when Kevin calls his mom a "dummy," I cringed. What was I thinking?! Franny LOVES to quote movies. This morning the first thing that came out of her mouth was, "We not say shut up." Then about a half an hour later, she said, "I need to find Kevin." I smell trouble.

I think this tradition is a keeper.

Entertaining with Marianne Sant Warner

A few people have asked me about this cookbook that I made for my Dad with all my mother's best recipes and some of our other family favorites. It's finished now and anyone can order it through blurb.com. You can even preview the first eighteen pages or so, which oddly don't really cover many of my Mom's recipes. Most of hers come later in main dishes and desserts.

Entertaining with Marianne Sant Warner by Katherine Warner Fields

This is the third book I've made with blurb and I have been so happy with them. Just to warn you, though- it's really expensive for a cookbook. And they really get you with the shipping and the tax. I'm still grateful for the service they provide though.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brown Bag Apple Pie

I was checking my cousin Megan's blog and found this recipe she posted for her grandmother/my great-aunt's recipe for brown bag apple pie. I have always wanted to make a brown bag apple pie. By always I mean ever since last month when my brother-in-law Wes told me about the one he saw on the Food Network. This recipe is delish! And I loved it more knowing that it comes from my Aunt Betty, who could knit like nobody's business and play a mean game of Peanuts.

I'm not sure it's like this for everyone, since I'm so obsessed with cooking and food, but I love using old family recipes. When I prepare my Mom's recipes, it helps me to stay connected to her. And when I happen to know that I'm using a recipe that her mother used, or one she got from her Aunt Nell or her Aunt Edna... well, that's even more cool.

How cute is this Le Creuset apple dish my mother-in-law picked up for me at Tuesday morning? I just love her and it worked perfectly for the pie.

In a paper bag! Fascinating!

Staple the bag shut.


I've been a crappy blogger. I've been working on some Christmas projects that I'm giving away as presents. One was a cookbook for my Dad with all of my Mom's recipes and some of our other family favorites. I've been rummaging through old pictures that my Dad sent me. It was an exhausting process but one I thoroughly enjoyed. Here's one I found with my Aunt Betty at my parent's wedding luncheon:

Aunt Betty is second from the left, sitting next to her husband Sy. My Grandma's brother Craig and his wife Karen are sitting across from Sy and Betty. I believe that's Reba sitting next to Betty. Or is it Dorothy? I also see Aunt Marinette back there. Here's another cute one of my parents at their wedding luncheon:

Let's see, from left to right I see Tracy, Jeff, Cole and Marianne, Jill, Gayle, and Becky. I also see some old guy trying to steal a stack of plates. Wedding crasher, probably. I just love old pictures.

I made just a couple small changes to the recipe:

Recipe: Paper Bag Apple Pie

(I used the barefoot contessa's perfect pie crust recipe)

8-9 granny smith apples large ones
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. Flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs lemon juice

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 stick of butter

cut apples into small chunks and place in bowl then pour lemon juice onto the apples. Combine filling in separate bowl mix and then toss with apples. spoon into pastry shell just pack them in. mix the topping and then sprinkle on top of all the apples. (this is the interesting part) Place into a paper bag and staple shut. place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 425 for 1 hour 5 minutes.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Omelette for Two

I made my first frittata just now and I liked it. I left out the onion because we didn't have one and I used a russet potato, your average bacon, Great Value cheddar, and pickled jalapenos. It tasted GREAT.

Omelette for Two
from Barefoot at Home

  • 1/4 pound good thick-cut bacon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup medium-diced Yukon gold potato
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
  • 5 extra-large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, diced, plus extra grated cheese, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the bacon crosswise in 1-inch slices. Cook the bacon in an 8-inch ovenproof saute pan over medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned. Drain the bacon on paper towels and discard the fat from the pan. Add the butter to the pan, and then add the potato and yellow onion. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the onion starts to brown and the potato is tender but firm. Add the jalapeno pepper and cook for 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together with a fork. Stir in the scallions and diced Cheddar. When the potato is cooked, add the bacon to the pan and pour over the egg mixture. Place the pan in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the omelet puffs and the eggs are almost cooked in the center. Sprinkle with a handful of grated Cheddar and bake for another minute. Serve hot directly from the pan.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

A few weeks before Thanksgiving we got some great news. Louise (Bobby's mom) and Howard wanted to come out and spend the holiday with all her kids in Kansas City. We were hoping Traci could make it but totally understood why they couldn't make the drive from DC. We missed them, though. It was so great to be together!! The first four years or so that Bobby and I were married were spent with Louise and we missed spending that holiday with her when we moved to the Midwest. Wes and Jen hosted at their house and we had so much fun. The food was delicious and would you believe that the picture above is the ONLY food picture I took? I guess for me this Thanksgiving was more about the people than the food. Although the food was AWESOME. I made my favorite side dish- Raspberry Pretzel Jello. Say what you will, but I love that stuff. I'm going to make more for me and my nephew Hunter to enjoy when he comes for Christmas. I made 3 pumpkin pies (2 Libby's and 1 Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie as seen on Smitten Kitchen), the chocolate peanut butter cake, and my mom's artichoke dip. I had everything done Wednesday before we left for Kansas City. I baked the artichoke dip Wednesday morning, let it cool and then I refrigerated it at Jen's house the night before. Thursday morning I pulled it out of the refrigerator and heated it up in there and it worked out perfectly, since the oven was not available because of the turkey. That's a traditional recipe at our house so I was glad to put it out and my in-law's seemed to really enjoy it. I was excited for a side-by-side comparison of the pumpkin pies. I wanted Bobby to do it but he only seemed interested in eating the Libby's. The Fields are long time Libby's pumpkin pie fans, so I knew I shouldn't switch recipes on them, but I couldn't resist making one of the new recipes. For me there was no contest, I love that Smitten Kitchen recipe, but I think my in-laws stand by the old favorite. Except for Jen, who liked the new pie better but thought a little more spice might not be a bad thing. Maybe I'll add a little more ginger next time and maybe a pinch of ground cloves.

We had so much fun. Sophie was thrilled that her aunts would sit and read to her. We love Aunt Niki. We played Buzz Words and that was super fun, although I get really intense when I play this game. And I kept putting my arm on the dry erase board we used to keep score. By the time we were finished with the game, I looked pretty tough with all my sweet fake tats.

That's the wrong finger, Sophie. Louise is like a professional bargain shopper. She finds amazing deals on stuff. Problem is, she can't resist a good deal, so she ends up with all this stuff. She invented a game which I think she called "The Miscellaneous Stuff Game" or something. Basically she just put a ton of stuff on the kitchen table and it was a big free-for-all for the kids and adults. It was fun and Molly was the lucky recipient of the Precious Moments 8x10 picture frame thanks to her daughter Zoe. Ha ha.

Dinner was so good.

Jen, Wes, JP, Molly, Bobby, and me. Louise and Howard watched all nine of our children so that the six of us could go out and see Four Christmases. I'm not sure we've ever gone out like that before without our kids. It was so much fun. It's a cool feeling to know that you'd want to be friends with your relatives even if you weren't related.

Here's a sweet picture of Louise with my girls the day we drove out of Kansas City. They were so nice to come so far and make it possible for us to all be together for Thanksgiving. It was actually Howard's idea.

On our way out of town Bobby drove by one of the houses his family owned while he was growing up. He was happy to find that not much has changed. You're so cute, honey.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

I've posted this recipe before, but I decided to post it again since I make so many changes to the original. This is adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe found on her site and it's one of my favorite dishes ever.


makes 2 pies
  • 3 or 4 chicken breasts
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut in half
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 rib celery, cut into thirds
  • 2 cup plus 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks plus 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 lb. red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium leek, white and light-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and washed
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 6 ounces button mushrooms, quartered if large (these get left out for Bobby's sake in my pie)
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream


  1. Combine chicken, chicken stock, yellow onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, 3 thyme sprigs, and celery in a stockpot, and add enough water just to cover the chicken. Bring stock to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
  2. Pick enough thyme leaves to make 3 tablespoons. Combine 2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoon thyme leaves in the bowl of a food processor, and set remaining 2 tablespoons thyme aside. Add 2 1/2 sticks chilled butter cut into small pieces, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. While the food processor is running, add 6 tablespoons ice water and 2 egg yolks, and process until the dough holds together. Divide dough in half and flatten into two discs. Wrap well in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  3. Drain chicken, and reserve the stock. Shred the chicken into bite-size strips, and set aside. Strain the stock, and set aside 2 cups. Reserve the remaining stock for another use.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt the remaining 7 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add red potatoes, cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes begin to turn golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add leeks, carrots, and mushrooms, and cook 4 to 5 minutes more. Add the remaining 5 tablespoons flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in reserved chicken stock and milk, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add reserved chicken pieces, parsley, remaining 2 tablespoons thyme, lemon zest, remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and the ground pepper; transfer to two pie dishes. Set aside.
  5. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick, and transfer to a baking sheet. Allow to chill 15 minutes. Make an egg wash: In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining yolk and heavy cream. Working quickly, place the dough over the top of the chicken mixture, and tuck extra dough around the edges. Cut slits on top to allow steam to escape. Brush with the egg wash, and place on a baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot. Freeze one pie before baking for later if you like. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil and use within a month.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Taco, Burrito, what's hanging out of your speedo?

My title is from a SNL cheerleader skit. I couldn't find it on Youtube, but I did find this:

My food pictures are always pretty crappy, but they've been especially crappy lately because I am so hungry by the time the food is ready! You know what happens to Professor Lupin in Harry Potter 3 when he sees the moon near the Whomping Willow? Well, that's pretty much how I get when it's time for me to eat again. (And yeah, I know I sound like a Harry Potter nerd, but at least I don't shout out "Expecto Patronum" in my sleep like my sister Julia.)

I got these recipes from my Dad who got them from the Pioneer Woman.

It's actually a recipe for cowboy nachos, but instead of serving them as an appetizer I used flour tortillas and served them up as tacos. Yummy.

Cowboy Breakfast Sandwich

I have a new culinary obsession. I've had this breakfast sandwich for lunch or dinner three times this week. (Ironically not once for breakfast.) Occasionally I find a recipe that I love so much that it trumps all my other cravings and any time I'm hungry it's all I can think about. Most recent example being the chocolate peanut butter cake I've mentioned now four times on this blog. I was actually angry with Bobby for about 3 hours last week for eating nearly the rest of the cake and leaving me with only the most measly, teeny-weeny slice.

This is my "Nobody better mess with me or my cake" face.

The mayo and the jalapenos are what make this breakfast sandwich special. I load mine with so many jalapenos that by the end I'm practically breathing fire, but it's so worth it.

Here's the link- wouldn't change a thing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday Dinner with the Schrant's

I love when Sunday dinner turns out well. I've found that I have certain criteria for what makes a good Sunday meal. I want it to be very traditional, but still sophisticated. I don't want anything too unusual, and I want it to taste amazing. We invited Ben and Laci Schrant over and I told Bobby if they asked if they could bring anything that some kind of bread or a green salad would be great, but they didn't have to bring anything if they didn't want to. They showed up at our door with both! And both were delicious. Thanks guys!

I had been using this recipe for roast chicken for years and finally stopped because I just thought the chicken tasted kind of greasy. On Saturday I realized maybe it's because of all the butter I smear all over it? Hmmm... it only took me three or four years to figure that one out. Yikes. So I went online to find another recipe and came up with this:

Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme

One 2- to 3-pound farm-raised chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
one bunch fresh thyme
1 head garlic
1/2 lemon, cut into quarters

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity and stuff it with the head of garlic cut in half crosswise, the lemon quarters, and the bunch of time. Truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it's a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.

Now, salt the chicken—I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it's cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.

Place the chicken in a sauté pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone—I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want. Roast it until it's done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.


I haven't made gravy much. I think it's because I am too hungry by the time I have the drippings I need to make it to go to the trouble of making it. But I made it this time and I LOVED it. The point is I'm no expert. But here's what I did:

I don't have a roasting pan so I took the drippings and poured all but two Tbs or so into a saucepan. I added about 1 cup of water and put the pot over medium heat. Then I took 1 tablespoon of flour and mixed it quickly with the reserved drippings. Then I added this mixture to the pot and mixed it until it got thick. Once thickened I pushed it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and as for the result- I can't speak for anyone else, but I sure liked it!

The other new recipe I tried was Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie from the Smitten Kitchen. Only change I would make is the pie needs to cook for longer than the recipe says. And I would use a higher temperature. I've made this pie twice now and I still don't know exactly what to tell you time-wise so just keep an eye on it. I did make some changes in bold down at the end of the recipe, but I can't vouch for them. I do know that following the original recipe's directions will result in a very under-done pie filling.

Aaahhh!!! This pie is heavenly. Which is why I put a halo around it.

Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

A half-recipe of your favorite pie crust, chilled (here's a link to the one I love: Ina's pie crust.)

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk (I used 2 cups of half and half instead of one cup each of cream and milk)
3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams from 15-ounce can (regular canned yams can be substituted)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or 1 1/4 tsp ginger)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon table salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to make 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang all around pie plate.

Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Using thumb and forefinger, flute edge of dough. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Remove pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake on rimmed baking sheet 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate. Bake 5 to 10 more minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp. Remove plate and baking sheet from oven.

Make the filling: While pie shell is baking, whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks and vanilla together in medium bowl. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using back of ladle or spatula to press solids through strainer. Re-whisk mixture and transfer to warm pre-baked pie shell. Return pie plate with baking sheet to oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Continue baking until edges are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 45-60 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. (The pie finishes cooking with resident heat; to ensure the filling sets, cool it at room temperature and not in the refrigerator.)

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