Saturday, November 26, 2011

December's Book List

A little late, but here's what's on my nightstand for December reading:

Some interesting fiction:

Some inspiring non-fiction:

And some eye-candy to help bide the time until our Amalfi Coast vacation in June: 

What are you reading?

(Sharing with 5 Minutes for Books)

Thanksgiving Recap

Hello again!  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  We enjoyed lots of quality family time, mostly outdoors, and of course, a wonderful meal on Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday morning, our family participated in our town's annual Turkey Trot --- 1K for the kids, 5 miles for the grown-ups. The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed the vibrancy of the festivities.  My five-year-old's favorite part, however, was the special "finisher" bracelet she earned for completing her race.  ;-)

After the race, it was time to start cooking....and eating.  This year's menu was once again highlighted by turkey scallopini, which was really good this year, if I do say so.  We also recycled some old favorites from previous Thanksgiving menus and added a few new recipes to the mix, like the roasted brussels sprouts with potatoes and pancetta, and the brie en croute.  It was all good!

I changed up my tablescape this year --- I was tired of the dark brown linens I'd used previously, and I admit I didn't feel like handwashing china, crystal, and sterling this year, either.  Instead, I picked up this Marimekko tablecloth from Crate & Barrel and used simple white dishwasher-safe plates from Target.   The centerpiece was a hodge-podge of tureens, tapers, and vases from Williams-Sonoma and Pier 1 that I picked up last-minute, and on sale.  It wasn't the table I originally envisioned, but that's the price I paid for procrastinating!  In the end, it was all simple, easy, and kid-friendly.


I also found some silverbells at Whole Foods and placed them in a silver pitcher in my living room.  I liked how they picked up the blues in that room's art.

All in all, a very successful, and happy Thanksgiving.  And now, we're on to Christmas!

(Sharing with Savvy Southern Style and Between Naps on the Porch)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Menus of Thanksgivings Past

As I continue to plan for this year's Thanksgiving celebration and reminisce about past years' Thanksgiving dinner tables and recipes, I evaluate the successes and failures of previous Thanksgiving menus:

2005: This was my first year to host Thanksgiving, and I knew I couldn't handle an entire bird.  I settled on an herb-roasted turkey breast.  The popovers were inspired by my favorites in the Neiman Marcus tearoom; you can find the recipe in this cookbook.  The Wild Mushroom Phyllo Triangles, which have become a holiday tradition in our home, were adapted from Michele Anna Jordan's version in The New Cook's Tour of Sonoma.

2006: This was my second year to host but my first to try the now intra-family-famous Turkey Scallopini.  I went a bit overboard with the sides --- we had too many leftovers --- but the menu successfully pulled together modern Italian-inspired versions of American comfort food favorites.  All of the appetizers were especially good.

2007: I scaled it back this year, but tried a butternut squash and maple syrup ravioli from Putney Pasta that was fabulous; try to find it in your local market!

2008: I was pregnant with my second daughter; in survival mode with my oldest's then-terrible twos; and, at work, in the middle of my busiest research publication year to date.  I was also coming off a marathon master bath remodel. In short, I was too tired to execute a complicated Thanksgiving meal.  The result was a simplified version of previous efforts.  The "spicy parmesan green beans and kale" side dish came a Giada de Laurentiis recipe and was very yummy.

2009: I cheated a bit this year and took a little help from the store (Costco's cheese palmiers and pumpkin pastry kisses) and The Cheesecake Factory (the two cheesecakes, obviously), but no one complained.

2010:  Pregnant with my third daughter, exhausted from parenting a toddler and a precocious pre-schooler,  nearing a big deadline at work, and recovering a major home remodeling project, I was determined to restore normalcy with a well-executed Thanksgiving meal.  I gotta admit, this one turned out pretty well!  I especially recommend the recipes for the phyllo-wrapped asparagus and brie and the rosemary and gruyere bread sticks.

What are your Thanksgiving hits and misses?

(Sharing with Savvy Southern Style)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Veil Giveaway Winner!

It's time to announce the winner of Cory Putman Oakes' new YA novel, The Veil, autographed by Cory herself!

Congratulations to..... Commenter #6:

LadyBird At Home

Check your email --- I'll be contacting you shortly!

Thanks to everyone who entered and showed support for Cory's new book and for the cul-de-sac, too.  You can find The Veil on Amazon; on your Kindle; iPad, or Nook; and soon at other bookstores and libraries near you.  

In the meantime, thanks for reading the cul-de-sac.  More celebrating, nesting, nurturing, reading, sharing, and traveling soon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Magic of Childhood: Literary Fairylands

My five-year-old is obsessed with fairies.  Ever practical, she especially fixates on tooth fairy logistics and worries about the tooth fairy and her friends getting cold this winter.  She has already politely instructed Santa to build a house in our garden so the fairies will have a comfortable place to hibernate, and she has given me drawings for sophisticated, practical, and surprisingly tasteful fairy house furnishings that I am to locate and/or make.  In the meantime, almost nightly, she reads, and dreams, of fairy-land:

This Usborne school book fair purchase has been a hit for two years now. It is packed with informative "facts" about fairy life.

 This book inspires both a summer trip to Maine (which we are planning for one of the next two summers) and construction of one's own fairy house, using natural materials.

She loves that this book teaches you how to build a beautiful and multi-functional fairy house that can double as an animal sanctuary; I love that it celebrates a child's appreciation and awe of nature.

This beautifully illustrated personalized book from I See Me was a gift five years ago, and has been read scores of times since.  She loves that the fairies spell out her name and welcome her as the fairy princess.  Santa may be bringing personalized copies for each of her sisters this year, too.

I love that she shows such depth of interest in her subjects, even those as fleeting as fairies, and I encourage her exploration of childhood mythology through books.  It's a magical time to be her mom.

As always, I welcome your suggestions for expanding my children's literary horizons.  What are your kids' picks?

{P.S. Are you new to the cul-de-sac?  Welcome, browse away, and feel free to follow! You can review my other book recommendations, for children and adults, by clicking "read" in the navigation bar above.  And don't forget to enter my current giveaway -- an author-signed copy of The Veil, a new young adult paranormal romance/urban fantasy novel by Cory Putman Oakes.  The book would make a fantastic gift for a young reader in your life, or for yourself!}

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Giving Thanks for Food: Turkey Scallopini

I have a confession: I don't like "traditional" Thanksgiving food.  Roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, rolls...none of it excites me, no matter how expertly it's prepared.  For years, Thanksgiving seemed like an obligation, not a holiday: Spend hours cooking bland food for men watching football, then eat for 20 minutes, then spend hours more handwashing china while said men watched more football and napped.  No fun.  I had a major Turkey Day Attitude Problem.

So when the Thanksgiving dinner torch was officially passed to me six years ago, I decided to go a different route and spin traditional flavors into modern comfort food favorites.  Cranberry relish became cranberry martinis; corn became pan-fried polenta; dense rolls became airy popovers; pumpkin and pecan pies became pumpkin praline cheesecake. Thanksgiving dinner became fun to prepare, and really fun to eat.

The biggest hit of all, however, the dish that is now "tradition" in our house, the one that keeps my husband happy, is Turkey Scallopini.  The turkey is merely a vehicle for all of the goodness that is panko, butter, artichoke hearts, capers, and cream.  Low-fat?  Nope.  But it is the holidays, after all.  Indulgence is permissible.

Here's my Turkey Scallopini recipe to feed 6-8 people (measurements are approximate, as I am not a precise cook; if in doubt, just add more....):

9-12 turkey breast cutlets pounded to 1/4 inch
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs + 4 T water (or egg substitute -- I use Eggbeaters)
1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup good white wine
1 cup low-sodium turkey or chicken broth
1 small jar of capers, rinsed
1 large can of artichoke hearts, no marinade, quartered
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a shallow dish, mix flour with salt and pepper.  In a bowl, beat eggs and water.  On a plate, combine panko and parmesan.  Dredge turkey cutlets in flour mixture; dip in eggwash; coat with mixture of panko and parmesan.  Heat olive oil and butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.  Cook turkey on both sides until it is cooked through and golden-brown in color, about 4-6 minutes total. Transfer to a warm platter and cover.  Work with the turkey cutlets in batches, if necessary.

Add broth and white wine to skillet and deglaze over moderate-high heat, scraping up brown bits.  Bring to a quick boil and then reduce. Add capers, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add cream and parsley; simmer until heated through.  Pour sauce over turkey on platter and serve immediately.


The best part?  It doesn't take long to make.  No more rising at dawn to put the turkey in the oven!  And it's also inexpensive; I always have most of the staples on hand and the turkey breast cutlets usually cost less than $10 to feed 6-8 adults.  It's seriously yummy, and I promise, no one will miss the stuffed bird!


I'll share examples of my past Thanksgiving menus soon; in the meantime, you can see pictures of my Thanksgiving tablescapes here.  I now look forward to putting a creative spin on this traditional meal!

What are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

{Halloween Recap} The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

My five-year-old made the executive decision: We would have a Wizard of Oz-themed Halloween.  This was fitting, because although she hasn't yet seen the movie in full, she did spend all summer reading the original text.  After some thought, she assigned the role of Dorothy to herself, of course, and then doled out parts to the rest of us: her sisters -- the Scarecrow and the Lion; her Daddy -- the Tin Man; her Mommy -- Glinda, the Good Witch (yes!); and her grandparents -- the Wicked Witch and the Wizard.  We assembled our costumes, and on Halloween, we got in character:

Here's Dorothy and Toto:

Our little lion:

Our Scarecrow (wearing a hand-me-down costume from her sister, originally made by Yaya Papaya):

Finding a flattering adult Glinda costume proved an impossible challenge for this mama, as it turns out that puffy sleeves, thin pink satin, and miles of glittery tulle aren't a particularly good look for me --- clearly, I love my kids a lot to have worn this get-up!  (At least I didn't go this route.)  Plus, I had cool accessories.  Check out this fabulous wand, which lit up as it played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" --- this was a big hit with the kids!  ;)

Dorothy had ruby red slippers, of course, but Glinda especially loved her sparkly silver TOMS (which were also comfy for a full night of trick-or-treating)!

My husband was a trooper for donning this way-too-large Tin Man costume, complete with a plastic axe and heart:

Of course, we had to have a Wicked Witch and the Wizard himself:

Here's most of the cast assembled (my step-dad, the Wizard, was the photographer):

Sure, we took some creative license with our attire, but there was no mistaking who we were!  We even stopped traffic a time or two, as we traveled down the yellow brick road.  My daughters had a blast and were so thrilled by the parental participation. What a memorable Halloween!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tablescapes of Thanksgivings Past

I've been busy coming up with a new tablescape look for Thanksgiving this year --- something lighter and fresher than what I've done previously.  In the past, I've used coppers, browns, golds, reds, and corals in my Thanksgiving decor --- a heavy color scheme that complemented the metallics in my Lenox Eternal china.  I'm definitely ready for something new.  But for old times' sake, here's a retrospective of Thanksgivings in my home:






More Thanksgiving posts to come soon.  In the meantime, you'll note that on each of these menus, the featured dish is turkey scallopini.  You can find my recipe here.  :)

(Sharing with Between Naps on the Porch and Savvy Southern Style)