Friday, December 23, 2011

Cape Cod Christmas

Hello friends.

Can you believe Christmas is almost upon us? Beau and I will be traveling to his hometown on the Cape to spend the holidays with his whole family. I asked two of his sisters to put in for some mild weather since we all know this gal doesn't do cold very well. Someone listened. For being as far north as we will be, the forecast looks downright warm!

(Image here)

It looks like we won't be seeing any snow, but I did find a few images that suggest that it would be absolutely breathtaking.

(Images here)

(Image here)

Beau and I are looking forward to a season of love, warmth, family, friends and togetherness. Here's wishing you the very same.

Merry Christmas.

How will you be spending Christmas? Is it your favorite time of year too?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cashew Chicken

I have this thing for cookbooks. I really love them, but I rarely actually use them. See, I find hours of enjoyment looking though them, reading them, studying them. When it takes time to make a meal I usually go with what I know. Sometimes on special occasions I find a fun recipe. Usually that recipe is online and not from one of the dozens of cookbooks I own.

A few weeks ago I got a new cookbook in the mail. Food and Wine magazine has this little gem of a cookbook that showed up on my doorstep.

It turns out I'm also a sucker for a good roundup. I couldn't turn down a cookbook that had "the best recipes from the 25 best cookbooks of the year."As per my previously noted cookbook MO, I spent a few evenings looking over all of the recipes and thinking about all of the yummy things I could make.

After those few nights together, I set the book aside and there it sat on our coffee table for weeks. Today I was thinking about Chinese food and was bummed that every Chinese place around here that I've tried has disappointed me. Greatly.

I was mulling over the prospects of another bad Kung Pao Chicken when the cookbook caught my eye. I thought of two of those 25 books: Simply Ming One-Pot Meals and Stir Frying To the Sky's Edge and thought perhaps I could make my own, better Chinese meal.

Enter page 256. Cashew Chicken from Stir Frying To the Sky's Edge. I may never go out for Chinese again. And I might start using the cookbooks I've acquired over the years...

Cashew Chicken adapted only slightly from the cookbook pictured above.

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thigh cubed
3 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons cooking sherry
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pinch of sugar
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced cllery
1/2 cup cashews (the recipe calls for unsalted, but I couldn't find any. I cut the salt back in the recipe and just used salted cashews)

First, I combined the chicken, garlic, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon corn starch, 1 teaspoon sherry and the salt and sugar in a bowl.

In another bowl I combined the broth, remaining soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sherry and 1/2 teaspoon corn starch.

I set both of these bowls aside.

Next, I heated my wok and added a tablespoon of peanut oil and the ginger. I stir fried that until it was fragrant and pushed it to the sides of the wok. Then, I dumped the chicken concoction in the hot wok and spread it evenly across the bottom. I let it sit there for about a minute to sear and then stir fried for another minute until it was brown but not cooked through.

Last, I added the last of the oil, all of the veggies and the cashews. I stir fired that for a few minutes, stirred my broth mixture and poured that over the chicken and veggies. I was supposed to stir fry that for about a minute and serve, but it was at this point that I realized I hadn't made the rice. (Awesome rice cooker posted about here.)


So, I turned down the heat, started the rice and fumed for about 14 minutes knowing that I ruined dinner. Well, it turns out that this meal doesn't have to be super precise. It was delicious even with an extra 13 minutes simmering at low heat.

I like low maintenance recipes that are hard to ruin. I always manage to do something that has the potential to screw up dinner, so it makes me happy when recipes are Amy-proof.

Needless to say, Number 7 Chinese will not be my I-don't-really-enjoy-it-but-I-want-Chinese go-to restaurant any more. I may not need a restaurant. Actually, I'll need to figure out crab rangoons before I swear off chinese places all together.

Are you a cookbook person? Or do they gather dust like mine?

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I don't think I've seen The Nutcracker since I was a little girl. I probably would have missed it this year if I hadn't got an email from a parent of one of my students. Her daughter Bryanna would be missing school on Thursday and Friday because she had a lead in The Nutcracker.

The first writing assignment I have my seniors do is their college admissions essay. Not only is this the most important essay many of them will write in their senior year, but because of it I also get to know my seniors really well really quickly. Bryanna wrote about dancing. She wrote about training with the Atlanta Ballet and how she was on the path to become a professional dancer. Then the pain started and increased. She could barely walk. She couldn't sit the length of a class. She certainly couldn't dance. In November of last year she had hip surgery. Serious, major hip surgery. Her mom calls her hip "bionic." The doctors told Bryanna she'd never dance again. In her essay she wrote about how she was going to prove them wrong.

(Image from Jackie Rueda via Flicker)

And so she did. I watched her dance this afternoon. Among other parts she played the Lead Angel. It was a stunning scene. It was entirely en pointe. I looked that term up. Dancing en pointe requires strength of legs and feet. It requires great strength, balance and agility. It requires strong hips, among other things.

Bryanna's mom said that for dancers the Christmas season stops being the Christmas season. It is Nutcracker season. When she said it I knew that this time she was so very happy that this Christmas is Nutcracker season Bryanna.

What season is it for you, dear readers?