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Mushroom Soup with Chicken, Broccoli & Pumpkin Seeds

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Jan 5, 2013 at 10:36am

 Mushroom Soup with Chicken, Broccoli & Pumpkin Seeds

Happy New Year! It’s time for vegetables! I know that I don’t really need to explain why, given universal post-holiday puffiness and such. For me, all sorts of high-carbohydrate, gluten-free grainy flours made their way into my diet and while festive, I certainly noticed how 1) tired, and 2) starving it all made me feel.  Sometimes it takes little reminders that what works best – and for me that’s not just gluten-free, but primarily grain-free eating – is exactly what works best. Hey.

As a bonus, all of the foods that make me feel and look like myself – high quality meats, fish, vegetables, eggs, nuts, fats, and small amounts of dairy and fruit – are all of my favorite foods anyhow.

So 2013, let’s lead off with soup! I’ll confess I didn’t plan this one out, it sort of made itself out of the fridge. I’m quite sure that you could use vegetable broth, and skip the chicken, and enjoy this as a vegetarian treat. Dried porcini mushrooms make the broth – and everything – delectably meaty, for very little effort. When you’re making up a soup, keep in mind that the most satisfying soups are texturally layered – this version is brimming with tender chicken, chewy mushrooms, crisp broccoli, with crunchy nuts to finish. That’s how I like it! Kablam!

I hope you all enjoyed holiday time with family and friends. We hosted Christmas Eve here with my mom and sister Stacey. Escargot, beef stroganoff, braised cabbage with caraway seeds, and baked lemon pudding made up our holiday feast and uff da, it was indeed a feast.

Christmas Day we made our annual trip out to my aunt Mary & uncle Bruce’s lovely farm west of Willmar. More beef – rib roast, yes! – snuggled up against mashed potatoes, beets, Brussels sprouts salad, topped off with my aunt Marge’s famous cheesecake for dessert. More uff da. So worth it. So much sparkly, cozy fun!

I’d say the tree is put away and everything is back in its usual place, but…hell no. We also hosted a New Year’s Eve party, and my birthday is tomorrow, so sometime this coming week will have to do. In the meantime, here’s to a delicious and healthy 2013! Fresh Tart turns 7 years old tomorrow, pretty crazy, thank you so much for reading along with me for all these years!

xo Stephanie

Mushroom Soup with Chicken, Broccoli & Pumpkin Seeds
Serves 4

I’ll confess that I gilded the lily by adding fried sage leaves as a garnish along with the pumpkin seeds and mushrooms. Totally not necessary, but if you’re as crazy about fried sage as I am, fry it in the butter you toast the pumpkin seeds in (sage leaves first, remove them, add the pumpkin seeds, toast away) until a little bit browned. Killer.

1 c. + 1 quart chicken broth
1-6 oz. package dried porcini mushrooms
5 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled & chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
sea salt
1/2 c. heavy cream (optional)
handful arugula leaves (optional)
1 c. broccoli florets
1 c. bite-size chicken pieces (I pulled apart a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 c. raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
freshly ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, heat 1 c. chicken broth until steaming. Remove from heat and stir in porcini mushrooms. Soak for 30 minutes until mushrooms are soft. Scoop mushrooms from broth with your hands, squeezing liquid back into the pan. Chop mushrooms and set aside. Strain broth through a coffee filter into a small bowl and reserve.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat until melted and foaming. Str in onion, carrot, celery, garlic, dried thyme, and a pinch of salt. Stirring occasionally, saute vegetables until beginning to soften, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and quart of chicken broth. Simmer broth and vegetables until vegetables are tender, 10-15 minutes.

While soup simmers, in a small skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. butter over medium heat until melted and foaming. Stir in pumpkin seeds and toast seeds, stirring frequently, until seeds are golden brown. Transfer seeds to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside.

Add remaining 2 Tbsp. butter to skillet and return to medium heat. Add the chopped porcini mushrooms and a pinch of salt and saute until starting to crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a blender, puree vegetables and stock in batches with arugula leaves (if using), returning pureed soup to the saucepan.

Heat the pureed soup over medium heat until simmering. Add broccoli and cook for 5 minutes, until broccoli is tender-crisp. Stir in cream (if using) and chicken and heat for a couple of minutes. Season to taste with salt. Serve hot with toasted pumpkin seeds and sauteed porcini mushrooms, topped with several grinds of black pepper.

Fall Soups: Twin Cities Live

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Sep 8, 2012 at 8:39pm

I had a blast chatting fall soups on Twin Cities Live this week! I specifically talked about Coconut Curry Sweet Corn Soup, but also brought along Pozole (pork braised with chiles and hominy) and a Chicken Vegetable Soup that’s pretty much the perfect post-Thanksgiving soup (obviously made with turkey not chicken – please forgive me for mentioning Thanksgiving this early in September…).

It’s nice to serve the Pozole with freshly fried tortilla chips. Then again, everything is nice with freshly fried tortilla chips.

pozole stephanie meyer fresh tart

It was fun for me to look back at my Farmily post for the Chicken Vegetable Soup recipe. We’ve had so many delicious times at my aunt Mary & uncle Bruce’s farm!

chicken vegetable soup fresh tart stephanie meyer

Recipes for all three soups at Twin Citites Live.

Happy Thanksgiving 2010!

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Nov 27, 2010 at 10:13am

We spent the day at my aunt Mary and uncle Bruce’s farm, about two hours west of Minneapolis.  As always, a beautiful setting, meal, and day.

I hope you had a lovely, delicious day!

Farmily

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Mar 7, 2010 at 7:42pm

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I love visiting my aunt Mary and uncle Bruce’s farm in west-central Minnesota.  If you’re a new reader – welcome! – and here’s why:

Beauty.  Stillness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warm, buttery scones with softly scrambled eggs and browned sausages.

Made by Mary, not me.  (Yes.)

Fun and games.

Vegetable soup loaded with chicken, leeks, turnips, kielbasa, beans, and fresh thyme.  I craved another bowl within 15 minutes of leaving their house.  You would have too.

Made by Mary, not me.  (Yes.)  Recipe below.

Cool cold beer(s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty things.

Funny, sweet, very polite dogs.  Hi Cody.  (He did not get a sandwich.  But I did.  Sorry man.)  More in the gallery, below.

Vegetable Soup

Mary Felt

Serves 10-12

3/4 lb. Polish sausage, sliced

1 broiler/fryer chicken (2-3 lbs.)

8 c. water

2 leeks, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 large turnip, peeled and cubed

1 large onion, chopped

1 large potato, peeled and cubed

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 Tbsp. snipped fresh parsley

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 c. shredded cabbage

2 c. cooked navy or great northern beans

In a skillet, cook the sausage until done.  Drain on paper towels; set aside.  In a large Dutch oven, cook chicken in water until juices run clear.  Remove chicken; let cool.  Strain broth and skim off fat.  Return the broth to Dutch oven.

Add leeks, carrots, turnip, onion, potato, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove chicken from bones and cut into bite-size pieces; add to the Dutch oven.  Add cabbage, beans, and cooked sausage.  Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Ohhhhh, hi Shep.

Comfort.

Steak, ham, Swiss, & lettuce sandwiches. Made by Mary, not me. (Yes.)

Relaxation.

Not-big-city light.

More pretty things, inside…

…in corners…

…and out.

Full-on winter…

…and signs of spring (melt snow, melt!).

History…

…patina…

…and texture.

Form…

…and function.

Taking pictures outside in my bathrobe. (Yes.)

Reality – the shed’s roof collapsed from snow, just this week.

(Don’t) Let it Snow!

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Dec 23, 2009 at 8:44am

We casually sent a holiday card this year saying “Let it Snow.”  I meant it, since I love a snowy holiday, but I was dreaming of a white – not white out – Christmas.  Unfortunately, we (and a good portion of the Midwest) are about to get blasted with piles of snow, mixed with ice, a dangerous holiday brew.  The latest forecast is for several inches overnight tonight, several more tomorrow, and potentially several more on Christmas Day, which would wreck our plans for driving out to my aunt Mary and uncle Bruce’s farm for the day, my favorite Christmas tradition.  No!

 

<–  or?  –>

 

 

I’m still holding out hope, planning to reprise the brussels with pancetta and dried cranberries I made for Thanksgiving (three pounds of brussels are in the cooler, waiting, waiting)… But in case we can’t make the trip, I’ve also made a plan for celebrating here.  A humble chuck roast is already defrosting, awaiting the magic of a bottle of Burgundy, a (small) slab of bacon, and a long, slow braise to transform into silky-rich boeuf bourguignon.  Which will it be – brussels and prime rib at the farm, or boeuf bourguignon here in the city?  Beefy either way, so stay tuned…

In the meantime, there are other meals to consider.  Like tonight’s chicken soup with popovers.

And Christmas Eve dinner, which I’ll be preparing, and which I’ve spent precious little time thinking about because of my worries about the weather.  Well, not precious little – I did get it together enough to order some lobster tails and make a plan to grill them brushed with garlic butter.  And to plan the rest of the menu (for my mom, Stacey, Cooper, Bowen, and John and myself).  Here it is:

gougere

steamed artichoke with aioli

….

grilled lobster tails with garlic butter

rice with peas and mushrooms

sauteed spinach

….

lemon souffle with whipped cream

chocolate truffles (leftover from our party, made by Vincent’s, insanely good)

….

I hope the snow isn’t messing up your plans too.  Hang in there everyone – and stay safe!

We’re Still Celebrating…

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Dec 27, 2008 at 12:36pm

Holidays still going strong here at the Levy Hacienda…  Let’s see, we’ve pretty much been celebrating since Sunday when my bro and sis David and Etta accidentally arrrived – flying from NYC to Billings, MT, through Minneapolis, they missed their connection and couldn’t secure another flight until Wednesday morning.  Woo hoo!  Well, not for them, but for Stacey, John, Nathan, Sasha, and me, it was a sweet little present.  I had planned latkes for dinner Sunday night anyhow, and since latkes are a bit labor-intensive for just four people, it worked out quite perfectly to double our group (Stacey, Cooper, plus David and Etta) and have ourselves a little latke feast.  We garnished with sour cream, skipped the apple sauce, and enjoyed every greasy, crispy, salty, glorious bite.  Happy Hanukkah!

Monday we set out for some late shopping and stopped for a lovely meatball sandwich lunch at Broder’s.  Monday night I made one of my very favorite soups – Gourmet Cookbook fish soup with croutes and rouille.  I don’t think there’s a better soup on the planet – brothy, spicy, bright, hearty-yet-light, it hits just about every possible note.  It’s also simple and pretty.  Pretty perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday night we feasted on glorious take-out from Taste of India.  Then Wednesday morning David and Etta were off for Billings, sniff, and I switched into Christmas Eve mode.  Stacey, Cooper, Bowen, and Mom joined John, Nathan, and me for a simple dinner and lots of presents.  I stuck to a loosely Greek theme, with grilled pita, eggplant spread, olive spread, and raw veggies for a pre-din snack.  For dinner I made a simple shrimp and orzo dish, recipe via Bon Apetit.  And for dessert, a warm lemon souffle, big hit.  Perhaps my all-time favorite dessert.

Christmas Day John and I made what has become our annual drive out to my aunt Mary and uncle Bruce’s farm, about two hours west of the Twin Cities.  We enjoyed a gorgeous, snowy drive and arrived to find the usual merriment – Mary and Bruce, of course, plus their sons Craig and Michael, and Michael’s wife Amanda.  Also my aunt Marge and Uncle Jim and their daughters Kim and Kelly.  Also wine and appetizers and a roaring fire and two pretty trees and all sorts of good smells and conversation.  Dinner ’round the giant table (top pic) was prime rib of beef, sour cream mashed potatoes, Harvard beets, and green beans sauteed with red pepper and pine nuts.  I contributed crusty no-knead bread.  And Marge contributed her perfect cheese cake, with strawberries, on plates lit by little candles (LOVE those candles!).  After dinner we opened gifts (I laughed until I ached at my cousin Kelly’s gift from Craig – James Lilek’s Gastronomalies book, beyond hilarious) and played team Trivial Pursuits and then John and I drove home.  (Honestly, John drove home and I dozed – I’m such a good travel companion….)

And then today, to keep the merriment going, John and I dug into one of my many beautiful presents, a tin of ca-vi-ar, oh yeah.  I flipped crepes, minced some onion, and boiled and sieved a few eggs.  John popped a bottle of champagne, pried open the tin, and we dug into a little slice of post-Christmas heaven.  Holy Roly Poly Moly.  I’m digesting as I write, then we’re off to our third movie of the weekend (opened with Frost/Nixon yesterday, then wandered home to watch The Counterfeiters, then this afternoon we’re out the door to see Milk).  A champagne-n-caviar-fueled movie marathon?  Um, yes.

Hope you’re relaxing and enjoying your guests and presents and treats and the end of 2008 as well!

Bowen Christmas Eve

Nathan’s Nutcrackers

Mom

Michael, Kelly, John

The table at the farm

Mary cookin’

Christmas Day spread

Candlelit cheescake

Kelly, Kim, & Amanda playing Trivial Pursuit

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Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Jul 14, 2008 at 10:00am

When we do beach in Minnesota, it’s at a lake, of course. Or even better, it’s on a lake, in a boat, with a cooler full of snacks & supplies, good tunes, and enough engine oomph to pull the water ski- and intertube-inclined of the group. Ahhh, warm sun, cool breeze, cold beer, beautiful views. That’s summer, baby, and I’ll take it.

Or more accurately, I took it, yesterday, at Green Lake with my aunt Mary & uncle Bruce. Nathan and I drove out to their lovely farm, near Kerkhoven, Saturday evening. I’m not usually one for the drive, but we took a new route (to avoid – big surprise – road construction) and given the recent rains and the angle of the late-afternoon sun, the scene was breathtaking. The effect was lush rolling hills covered with silver-y green fields literally sparkling in the breeze, I’m not kidding. I’ve never seen anything like it (and I’ve done a lot of driving west of Minneapolis). Less than 30 minutes into our drive I felt completely away and relaxed, ahhhh.

We arrived at The Farm in time for dinner, with my aunt Marge and uncle Jim joining us as well. I had picked up a few cheeses, acacia honey, dried fruit, and crostini at France 44 before we left, so we enjoyed that on the porch before our dinner: salad with peaches, greens, and almonds, followed by grilled steaks, farmer’s market new potatoes, and grilled corn on the cob brushed with hoisin-orange butter (yum, recipe is here). Basically, the perfect summer dinner, followed by the perfect summer dessert surprise…DQ Dilly Bars! Man, I hadn’t had a Dilly Bar in so long, it tasted great, just like when I was a kid. Nathan was thrilled; Marge and I scored free Dilly Bars (message on the stick, natch, under the ice cream; for the Willmar DQ, however, so I left mine with Mary!).

Yesterday morning we were up – lazily – for coffee, pancakes, berries, and sausage on the deck, over-looking the countryside, so beautiful. Mary made delicious sandwiches on fresh bread, Bruce loaded up the boat trailer, and we took off for Spicer, the put-in for Green Lake. After a quick stop to check out my cousin Michael and his wife Amanda’s beautiful new home, by 1:30 pm we were cruising, eating sandwiches, and stopping to chat with my cousin Kim (she lives on Green Lake and came down to the dock to say hi). After a bit Nathan jumped in the lake and tried to get up on skis, then moved on to wake-riding on the tube. By 5:00 pm we were heading back to shore to grab dinner at Melvyn’sfried walleye for me, of course, most certainly not caught in Green Lake but completely of the lake anyhow (my Grandpa Meyer fished Green Lake almost exclusively).

And then we headed home…Mary & Bruce back to The Farm, Nathan and I back to the city. In a little more than 24 hours, back in our own beds.

So here we are. A little browner, a lot more rested, ready for the week. Thank you Green Lake! And of course, thank you Mary & Bruce! (I’m thinking more fried walleye for dinner, I’m needing more than one piece this summer; plus, as I like to do post-trip, I can stretch out the idyll for just a bit longer… With a crisp white, and a big veggie share salad, I should welcome myself – and John, who was in NYC for the weekend – home quite nicely.)

Moderate it: let’s face it, walleye fans – with its light and flaky texture, walleye must be fried to achieve greatness. I prefer mine dredged in a bit of flour and fried in butter, the way my Grandma Meyer made it. The key to keeping the meal moderate is to serve fried walleye alongside something a bit tart and crisp – as in, a simple salad of greens, radishes, scallions, dressed lightly in a lemon/olive oil vinaigrette. Enjoy.)

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Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Mar 23, 2008 at 8:09pm

Happy Bunny to You! Ahh, home. Nathan and I got off the plane from San Francisco this afternoon and went straight to my Dad & Susanna’s for Easter dinner with my aunt Mary & uncle Bruce, as well as Stacey& Cooper. Couldn’t ask for a sweeter way to ease back in to winter, you know? Garlicky, crusty leg of lamb with cucumber-yogurt sauce; creamy, deadly pommes dauphinoise (a Meyer-family favorite, I believe originating with my aunt Jean, recipe posted in comments below); fresh, warm bread; salad with pears and pecans; and lemon pie with whipped cream. Yeah, the food in San Fran was incredible, but home does not suck when Susanna and Mary are cooking! Even after four consecutive 70-degree sunny days, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it is (mostly) good to be home – no small task, thank you Susanna & Dad!

So, back to San Francisco for a moment…Nathan and I opened our Food Adventure with a Chinese dim sum feast at Tian Sing, near our hotel and very tasty. Shatteringly crisp spring rolls, delicate steamed shrimp dumplings, pillowy-soft steamed barbecue pork baos, and garlicky, crunchy Chinese broccoli… Happy start indeed, woo hoo!

Thursday we hopped on a cable car to always-hoppin’ Fisherman’s Wharf. It just happened to be lunchtime, so we ducked into In-N-Out Burger before the madness hit (and oh did it hit, about three minutes after we ordered), a major highlight for Nathan. Easy enough to order at this California fast-food superstar – the menu consists of burgers and fries, baby, burgers and fries. Fresh beef + fresh-cut potatoes = deliciousness. We walked off the burger-y excess (ack) along the waterfront, cruising various piers, parks, and shops for the entire, sunny afternoon.

Friday we boarded a ferry for a tour of Angel Island and Alcatraz. The appropriately named Angel Island – as in, heavenly – is the largest island in the bay and pretty much one of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen. (Nathan and I ate a picnic lunch alongside this charming little cove, with a hill of fragrant eucalyptus trees behind us.) Alcatraz is stunning too, while at the same time entirely creepy and depressing. The audio walking tour is a must-do, lively and fascinating, narrated by gravelly-voiced former guards and inmates and punctuated with (very, sometimes overly!) realistic sound effects.

We made it back to the hotel just in time to be picked up for dinner by my cousin Blake, who lives in San Franciso proper with his wife Tegan, daughter Gracyn (5), and son Knox (3). Blake and Knox (only the boys were able to join us for dinner) whisked us off to Sausalito (over the Golden Gate Bridge, woo hoo!) for bay-side deliciousness at Fish. Nathan had his first fish-n-chips dinner ever (thumbs up), while Knox enjoyed “chicken”-n-chips (wink), and I downed yummy grilled-fish tacos.

Saturday, sweet Saturday, we toyed with the idea of renting a convertible to drive up the coast, through wine country hills, and back to the city to catch all the breath-taking sights and scents of rural NoCal. (We decided we needed two more days – one to drive north of the city, one to drive south, to visit my aunt Jean and uncle Del – Blake’s parents – in Carmel. Next time…) But we settled on an even better idea, thanks to Blake’s suggestion to head first thing for the famous Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Oh Lord, if only we all had access to such glory! A beautiful bounty of fresh, locally grown produce and meat, available year-round (!), along the waterfront to make it, you know, ridiculously (painfully) gorgeous. Man, it was just insane. OK, I was just insane, walking around completely jealous of the locals casually buying fresh flowers, crusty bread, fresh pa
stries, organic meats
, fresh fish and shellfish, artisanal cheeses, Napa Valley wines, local beers, fresh vegetables (including a whole stand of wild mushrooms!) and fruits. Picture our Minneapolis Farmers’ Market (which I love) about twenty times more sophisticated and lovely. Foodie. Heaven.

And then…Mexican tasties (yes, here I go again), giddily ordered at Mijita Cocina Mexicana, a permanent cafe in the Ferry Building. Fresh, authentic, a little Mexican cafe like this would clean up in Minneapolis, don’t you think? I mean, I know there are lots of yummy little taquerias around, which I’ve admittedly totally under-explored, but this place was so accessible, and so real, I couldn’t help but sigh a bit knowing there wasn’t quite an equal ’round these parts. Which is probably a good thing, in the name of moderation and such… (After chowing down on carnitas with tomatillo salsa; a fresh masa quesadilla filled with cheese, epazote, and roasted chiles; guac (of course); and chilaquiles drizzled with crema and served alongside creamy beans, we were a bit, uh, full. Good thing there’s such a huge, cool Chinatown in which to walk off a Mexican feast!)

Soooo…as I said, we’re back in the black-n-white photo we call home, and it’s…good? Lovely Easter dinner definitely smoothed the transition. A good night’s sleep never hurts. It’s a little sad that Spring Break ’08 will soon be but a happy memory, but hopefully a spring of our own is coming to distract us – soon?!

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Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Dec 26, 2007 at 1:46pm

Merry Christmas Day! We spent the occasion at my Aunt Mary and Uncle Bruce’s lovely farm outside Kerkhoven, Minnesota, as we have for the last several years, lucky us. As always, it was picture perfect – twinkly-sparkly festive and the definition of Christmas-y as we all sat around the gorgeous, gigantic table they set up for the holiday each year. Truly a sight to behold. We shared a toast with a delicious red prosecco, then tucked into prime rib, mashed potatoes, beets with sour cream, buttery green beans with morel mushrooms, and roasted carrots and cipollini onions. Tender challah and crusty no-knead bread (my meager contribution). And my Aunt Marge’s killer creamycheese cake with strawberries. Oh yes, quite a meal!

And then, we just sat enjoying the candlelit table, in that charming old farmhouse in the country, chatting and telling stories and reading letters and verses and half-laughing, half-crying through it all. I am so very lucky to have an incredibly cool and fun extended family, my dad’s sisters Marge and Mary and their families. So thanks to them, and their fabulous husbands Jim and Bruce, as well as Kim, Kelly, Jomo, Michael, Amanda, and Craig for such a great day. And to Stacey & Cooper for driving John, Nathan, and me out and back (long drive!). And to Dad, Susanna, David, and Etta for making the day complete and completely perfect.

And oh! We feasted the night before as well, of course, Christmas Eve. Stacey, Cooper, Bowen, and my mom were here for gifts and a big fire and a quiet, simple dinner. The crab cakes and Julia Child’s chocolate mousse were big hits (recipe for mousse posted in comments, below).

So. I can’t decided if it’s going to be a great relief or incredibly disappointing to return to Normal Eating. Probably a little of both. I’ll let you know when I get there, cuz it sure ain’t yet!

And oh again! Because it’s adorable, and I’m perfectly unashamed to spice up my food-obsessed blog with a bit of Cooper Cuteness, here’s a little video clip, below… Merry Christmas Auntie Etta!

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Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Dec 27, 2006 at 8:52pm

Christmas Day at the farm was perfect. Lovely drive, beautiful setting, great hosts (my aunt Mary and uncle Bruce) and guests (aunt Marge, uncle Jim, cousins Kelly, Kim, and Craig). And the KILL meal – salad with berries and almonds, roast prime rib with pan juices, mashed potatoes with sour cream (oh yeah, they’re as incredible as they sound; recipe posted in comments, below), Harvard beets, roasted vegetables, challah, and Marge’s pumpkin cheesecake with caramel sauce. After opening presents, we played a boys-vs-girls game of Taboo (girls kicked butt, of course), and then John and I drove home, enjoying the festive small town Christmas lights and remembering how incredibly bright the stars are when you get out of the city. Beautiful!

And now, oh ho ho is it time for the holidays to go! At least the over-eating part, ack. DONE! So long coffee cakes and cheeses and potatoes and steaks and breads and wines andcookies. Had you all! Enjoyed every bite and sip! But am also enjoying my return to salads and veggies and fruits and soups and teas and fish and nuts, aka Normal Eating. Like last night, when I pulled leftover simple tomato-garlic soup out of the freezer, stirred in chipotle chili powder, canned black beans, and a few diced tender turkey meatballs. NICE! And filling and healthy too.

Or like tonight – sauteed chicken, big salad, a mug of hot tea for dessert, and a family game night including rounds of Blokus and Scrabble. It’s still vacation for the kids, but feels good to get back a bit of our usual groove, too.

Big plans for the New Year? Not here, a quiet night is in order which is damn fine with me! We’re thinking perhaps Indian takeout, requisite glass of bubbly, more board games, and BED! After all the December celebrating, and my 40th in mere weeks, a low-key New Year’s Eve breather sounds positively lovely.