Monday, November 25, 2013

A Little Boozy

Honestly...isn't it exactly this time of year where 'a little boozy' is acceptable?Necessary?  Encouraged, even?  'Tis the season for family gatherings filled with people you truly want to spend time with and maybe a few you don't.  Being 'a little boozy,' not all-out "I can't believe you said that to me in high school!" drunk will make the evenings fly by.  Work parties where 'a little boozy' will make your time there a little more bearable and less awkward.  Or maybe you'll find yourself at a holiday party with a friend where you don't really know that many people.  'A little boozy' might be enough for you to stand a couple of feet away from the wall instead of hugging it if your friend disappears on you.

While all these scenarios could use a tipple or two, I'm sorry to tell you 'a little boozy' refers to none of these things.  What it does refer to is cranberry sauce.  A grown-up cranberry sauce that looks nothing like that jellied mass that softly plops onto a plate as you push it out from one end of the can to the other.  While there is a nostalgic part of me that still appreciates that jiggling mass, I will wholeheartedly embrace a relish the colour of garnets, tart and tangy with an abundance of orange zest, and just the right amount of amaretto to add sweetness and lushness.

This is the kind of cranberry sauce that goes from a perfect accompaniment at Thanksgiving dinner, to slathered on a turkey sandwich the next day, to atop a cracker with a really good aged cheddar, to spooned over vanilla ice cream with candied walnuts.  Buy bags of cranberries now, freeze them, and make this all through the year.  

...and let me say...Happy Thanksgiving.  Boozy or not.

Boozy Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

1 12-oz bag of fresh cranberries
2 Tbsp orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed
1/2 cup amaretto
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients into a large saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a low boil, then lower heat and allow to simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.  This will thicken further after you've taken it off the heat.  Allow to cool and refrigerate.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Morning Glow

In the early hours of Sunday morning, we turned our clocks back from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time.  I've never thought much about how it affected me.  I lamented about losing that precious hour back in March and while I initially kind of missed the early darkness, having the long days grew on me.

For the last couple of months, I was having the worst time waking up in the mornings.  I always have my alarm clocks (a clock on my dresser and my old Blackberry) set for 6:00 a.m, even on the weekends.  The intention:  waking up to enjoy the quiet of the morning, maybe going out to a farmers market on the weekend, or the gym.  Even if I never made it out the front door, I could leisurely enjoy a cup of coffee, the morning news, and spend time with happily fed cats.  But day after day, I would hit that 'snooze' button...and hit it...and hit it.  Six a.m. turned into 7, turned into 7:45, turned into 8:30.  I'm always a little peeved with myself after sleeping in, feeling like I've already wasted too much of the day.

Well...four days in and I am up and out of bed by 7:00.  My internal clock is in tune with the start of The Today Show every morning.  Yes...I still hit the snooze button, but for two, not two dozen times.  I have even found myself waking up before the alarm goes off and before any cat comes to tell me it's time for breakfast.

My bedroom has north-facing windows, but I get a flicker of rising sun (from a bounce of light off the neighbour's window) in the morning.  Maybe it's the time of year, but there is a warm golden glow that slips through the curtains in the morning.  It's the kind of light that makes me want something warm and comfort food-ish for breakfast instead of a bowl of cereal or toast.  Since we're only a couple of weeks away from Thanksgiving, I almost feel obliged to make something with pumpkin.  I'm going to run with it.  Pumpkin is finally growing on me, though I find it a little bland.  Is this normal?  Is it really everything else in a pumpkin pie that makes people mad-crazy for it?  There's still half a can left, so rest assured, I'll be making more pumpkin-centric foods over the next couple of days.

I went with a dish that I've been coming across pretty frequently on blogs and Pinterest.  Baked oatmeal.  No fancy ingredients.  Spices that you probably already have in your pantry.  Not a lot of time needed to bake.  The kind of dish that tastes indulgent and feels like you spent more time on it than you actually did.  This isn't the kind of dish you need to wait until the weekend to make.  It is for all these reasons and because baked oatmeal is just so good, that you need to make this.

 Baked Oatmeal with Pumpkin and Maple Creme Fraiche
Adapted from a recipe on Egginon
Serves 2 

1 cup quick oats
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup pumpkin 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine the oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and five spice.  In a small bowl, combine the milk, egg, vanilla, and pumpkin and whisk until fully mixed.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well.  

Pour batter into a oven-proof baking dish (I used a 5x7 shallow baking dish) and bake for 25 minutes.  Serve while still quite warm.

Maple Creme Fraiche
Makes 1/4 cup

1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 Tbsp maple syrup

Gently whisk the syrup with the creme fraiche and spoon over baked oatmeal right before serving.  If you don't have creme fraiche, you can easily swap out plain or vanilla yogurt mixed with the maple syrup or drizzle maple syrup directly over the oatmeal.  The creme fraiche just tips the scales into indulgent.  

Lucky in the morning light.