Thanksgiving Time in Chicago

It's been a crazy time here in the windy city, and we've had a ton of friends and family over to visit us! It's been great but very busy, so the blog has been sadly neglected. But here's a big Thanksgiving post. My parents came in town for Thanksgiving and have been here for 5 days or so. This was my first Thanksgiving hosting and it went really well! We also got to have Kristen White and her Dad, Moreno, come down from Wisconsin as well, which was great.

Here are my 10 things I learned hosting Thanksgiving...

1) Have friends over! It makes it a lot more fun. Friends also help cook and bring extra food so you don't have to do it all... fantastic.
2) Hosting Thanksgiving actually takes a lot more work and planning than I ever thought it did.
3) You really don't need to roast a huge turkey, you can make Turkey Osso Bucco instead.

4) Mom's floaty shirt can blow into the gas stove and light on fire and then she'll have a big melted hole in it, and then you'll be reminded that you don't have a fire extinguisher

5) Moreno White brings over really cool toys to play with, like a laser pointer that, when you point it at a diamond in the dark will throw off all sorts of cool reflections

6) The Dykeman family recipe for stuffing is still the most delicious stuffing ever.

7) Red gerber daisies are a lovely little touch.

8) When you cook leftover turkey legs, it looks like you're cooking parts of a dinosaur, they're huge and they take forever to cook.

9) Everyone needs huge homemade hands around their Thanksgiving table.

10) There are so very, very many thinks to be thankful for in my life!!! Brad and I are so thankful for all God has given us. He's pretty incredible, and has given us a pretty incredible life.

Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful as well!

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

Welcome back to Cheap Wine of the Week! We're finally back to an actual cheap wine that we actually drank this week.

This week's is the 2008 Paso a Paso Verdejo. I think I found this at Whole Foods, though it could have been Trader Joe's. It was $9.99 and it was another white that I needed to cook with. I'd honestly never heard of the Verdejo varietal, so I was excited to see what it tasted like, but I wasn't prepared to spend a ton of money on it. And I figured if we didn't like it, I'd cook with all of it. But it turns out I liked it well enough to drink it instead!

It's got some nice crisp citrus flavors, with a very little sweetness. I think with some sort of citrus salad or a light chicken dish, it would pair very nicely. I keep finding these whites that I'm enjoying, which is a surprise. I still wouldn't pick a white as a favorite any time soon, but these cheaper, lighter, dry whites have been just nice and refreshing. (And they're always cheaper, so they have a better chance of ending up here...)

Here're a few pictures:

And a close-up of the label, very cool geode looking label.

Have a good week all!

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

Another week, another recipe wrap-up!

This was a great cooking week. We got to have friends over Friday night to play Settlers with us so I finally got to cook for company! Of course, I failed to take any pictures of the food, but oh well. The pictures of the dining room from the last post are from that night, so that will have to suffice. Anyway, on to the food I did manage to capture!

The first meal was chicken piccata and some yummy garlic mashed potatoes. I love chicken piccata and I love how quickly it cooks up. The mashed potatoes were an excuse to use some leftover half and half that was going to expire soon. Hearty and delicious!

The next meal we had was for our 3rd anniversary. I was hoping for something really special, and I found this recipe and just wanted to try it out. It was a spinach spaghetti dish with artichokes and mushroom and garlic. I tweaked the recipe by adding the mushrooms and taking out the sundried tomatoes. (Though it would have had better colors with that pop of red...)

And for dessert, we had my go-to yummy dessert, which is fresh fruit over vanilla ice cream. I was inspired to add a little something different by a friend's blog ( who had a post a few days ago on Pomegranates. She's right, they are so much fun to pop out, and they are truly delicious. So I added some pomegranate arils to the classic raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, and macerated them in some sugar and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Yummy.

And lastly, on an impulse buy at Whole Foods, I found some trout on sale, and figured that I should try my hand at whole trout. I grew up with my Dad's small-mouth bass and sauteed potato dishes, and I wanted to emulate that a little bit. But, unfortunately, I don't have the secret recipe for the breading he uses (I've never asked, he might be willing to share), and these trout were completely whole, heads and all (though I had the guy chop those off, I couldn't handle it). So I went for an oven-baked preparation, but still had those delicious Hamilton potatoes. Oh my word. This was some yummy fish. Of course, anything with all those herbs and lemon and white wine sauce would be good. But this was quite yummy.

Here's the raw trout with the herbs getting smooshed in there.

All bundled up in its pouch!

And the final dish.

That's all for now. Hope you have a good upcoming week everyone!

Brad's Artwork

I wanted to show off a few new pieces of Brad's. He's been working on these huge "artifacts", as he calls them, of a lost world online. They are these much-larger-than-life pieces that are drawn solely on the computer (using his tablet). They are so awesome. And since we have them printed out now, we decided to put them up in the dining room. Why not? Hands can eat, and cook, and do all sorts of dining-related activities. And since the dining room doubles as Brad's workspace, this seemed appropriate for that as well. I really like them and I thought you all would like them as well. They are so cool!

Here's as much of both of the hands as I could get in one photo. These are both about 7 feet wide and 4 feet tall. Pretty huge.

And here's somewhat of a detail of just the one hand (this one's Brad's hand, the other one is mine).

Hope you're having lovely weekends, even though the college football scene today was awful!

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

This week's wine was really cheap (for us), it was free! We had the privilege of being part of my friend, Elissa's, wedding on Saturday, and I am going to combine a post about that day with my weekly one celebrating one of the wines at the reception.

The wedding was wonderful. Elissa met Chris two summers ago at her church. Chris was going to seminary and was at her church as an intern (or something like that), and she was invited by her aunt to help on a project with him. Apparently she didn't do much on the project, but she and Chris certainly became great friends really quickly. It has been wonderful watching their relationship and I am so thankful that she has found a man that loves the Lord and her so very much. My absolute favorite part about the wedding is that it means she is finally moving out to Illinois! Chris is a pastor at a group of churches down in the Quad Cities area, which is about two and a half hours away. Yay! That's a lot closer than Phoenix!

Here are a few pictures from the wedding.

This is my favorite getting-ready picture, her mom and sister were helping her get into that gorgeous dress and she was cracking up at the process.

And here's the wonderful couple. Officially Mr. and Mrs. Heller!

And here's a little bit of detail from the reception, the flowers and "tent" made out of lights were just stunning.

As for our "cheap wine of the week", that honor goes to the ZD Cabernet we had at the reception. It was really delicious, with all that you hope for out of a nice Cab. And we were really happy to be able to drink such a great wine without having to buy it ourselves! For anyone that was also at the wedding, I'm sure you enjoyed it as well. For anyone else looking for a great "cheap" wine, I suggest you find some good friends who will let you try it out on their dime. :-)

Congratulations Chris and Elissa! We love you and we are so happy to have you as in-state neighbors!

PS ~ Happy 3rd Anniversary to us! Brad and I will be drinking another not-cheap-wine-of-the-week tonight in honor of our day. We got to go to Napa on the trip out here and that was our anniversary gift to ourselves, so we'll be opening one of the bottles in honor of that.

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

Phew! It's been a long week! But a great one. I was in Phoenix Wednesday through tonight for my college roommate, Elissa's, wedding. Brad joined me Friday night and we had a wonderful time with her friends and family and I'm so thankful I got to be a part of her day. God has already blessed them so much. And they're moving to Illinois in the Quad Cities area! Yay!!

So I didn't get a chance to cook much this week. But a couple good recipes came out anyway.

First up was a night where we needed something warm and filling to make a crisp, fall night more inviting. So what's better for that than french onion soup? I found a recipe online that looked really good. Here it is. And it was really good, but it took a whole lot longer than I prepared for. The caramelizing of the onions took about two hours. But it was worth it. Mmmmm mmm good. Unfortunately, I don't have oven-sfe bowls, so I wasn't able to broil a great Gruyere topping onto the bowls that you dig through, but the Gruyere topped bread had to suffice.

And my other opportunity to cook came in Phoenix. Mom was working late and it was up to Dad and I to make something to eat. So we scrounged around a little bit and came up with these frozen tempura shrimp that we needed to make something with. And I found this recipe for some cold sesame noodles. The best part? The only things we needed to buy at the store were the egg noodles and the cilantro. Nice $4 meal.

Here're the noodles (honestly the best peanut sauce I've ever made, it would be delicious on anything)

Here's the finished product:

I promise to cook some more this week, but I appreciated the help from my Dad and it was pretty fun to have another audience other than Brad to eat with me. :-)

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

There is no cheap wine of the week this week. Nothing we drank was really worth spending the money on. And I'm pretty sure we only tried one wine this week (Ravenswood Petite Sirah, not so great). So here's a plug for Orfila! This is the winery I worked at in San Diego. It is really awesome. And I really miss the cheap-as-free wine we got there. And the friends.

But go check out the website or give them a call. And if you're in the San Diego area, just visiting or if you live there, go to the tasting room in Escondido! It's right by the Wild Animal Park and it's great wine, great people, and great views.

Mmmmm. Yummy. I miss it so much!

Weekly Recipe Wrap-Up

Hi all,

This week has been rather strange for Brad and me. We've been staying up till about 3am the last four nights and sleeping in till like 11 or 12. He's drawing this awesome new drawing (it's a 7 foot by 4 foot hand that he uses this scribbling technique to do. It's really, really gorgeous so far.) I'm studying for the GRE. I'm applying for two programs in Industrial/Organizational Psychology in Chicago and so I need to take the GRE. And since I just decided I wanted to apply for these programs like two weeks ago, I really need to take the GRE like right now. At any rate, Brad and I have barely left our apartment for the last week.

Needless to say, there wasn't much cooking being done. Food was more of a soup-out-of-a-can or take-out-sushi variety. But I managed a couple meals, and two decent photographs.

This first is a simple cream pasta. I had leftover half and half and good shredded cheese, so I made this pasta. However, the sauce called for 6 raw eggs mixed with the half and half and then just poured over the hot pasta to cook it. I did not trust it not to kill us, so I left it on heat for a little bit, so there were some vestiges of scrambled eggs in the pasta. It still worked out well, though, and at least it tasted good!

And, since it's fall, it was high time I baked a pumpkin pie. I don't think I've ever baked a pumpkin pie before. So I turned to the queen of comfort food, Paula Deen, for her recipe, knowing it couldn't turn out badly. In fact, Brad said it was really awesome pumpkin pie. Add in some whipped cream and yummy! Have lovely weeks, friends!