Crafting for the holidays
Apparently having a Christmas tree makes all the difference for me to be in the holiday spirit! With a free day today, I decided to do some holiday crafting. The result? Homemade gift wrap made with potato stamps, brown paper, and acrylic paint!
My first Christmas tree 🎄
Well, not my first … but my first, as in the first Christmas tree I have put up in my own home.
Sitting in a dark room with a twinkling tree might be my favorite Christmas mood. But I find I also enjoy sitting at the piano, playing Christmas music next to the tree with all its lights and decorations:
Tiny spots of color
I planted a mix of annual flowers in my garden this spring, in hopes of adding a dash of extra color and fun. They were seeds and I wasn’t sure what to expect or how many would make it. So when these spots of color started popping out this week I got pretty excited! Of course, plenty of weeds are also popping up, so I’ll be busy for a while getting things under control.
My friends’ children
I love my quiet house. I love staying up late reading and then sleeping in. I love having time to cook from scratch, to garden, to meditate, to practice yoga.
I also love the energy and directness of small children. I love the way they laugh. I love listening to their stories, playing games, sharing hugs, seeing the world through their eyes.
There is something wonderful about opening our house to friends and their children, inviting the adults to spend an evening eating and talking and relaxing while we take turns engaging with the little ones. They fill the house with imagination as the pillows become swords and shields and the floor becomes lava.
And at the end of the evening, they bundle up and go home to their beds, and I curl up in my warm, glowing, but still (thankfully, happily, once again) quiet house.
This kitty likes to come around our garden from time to time, and I’ll watch it from inside, but for the first time today I encountered it while I was out working in the garden myself. I startled it at first as I came around the house, but it quickly decided I was ok and came to say hello.
The satisfaction of a home-cooked meal and a full stomach
There is a simple pleasure in spending two unhurried hours preparing dinner from scratch. Thank goodness for weekends! Tonight’s dinner was three dishes from Ottolenghi that didn’t end up meshing all that well flavor-wise, but were each tasty and I’ll certainly be cooking again. (And with some tweaks they could be really versatile!)
I made a simple turkey with sauce, beans with hazelnuts, and a butternut squash and celeriac mash. The mash also had fried onions on top, which were super easy thanks to a microwave trick I happened to read on Food52 the other day. My stomach is very happy.
My husband pulled a box out of the cupboard the other day, revealing a pile of CDs that I didn’t know we still had. He was planning to rip his old music onto an older computer. (Our laptops don’t have CD drives — part of why I had forgotten about the CDs in the first place!)
I started rummaging around in the box and discovered a relic of my childhood: Myst. To my delight, I also found Riven, Myst III, and Myst IV. If you don’t hear from me in a while, you’ll know where I’ve gone …
Cooking throughout the day
I started working my way through some of the new recipes I chose the other day. We had turkey and courgette burgers last night (not actually new, but I’d only made them once before) with roasted brussel sprouts and salad. For today I decided to make the aubergine-wrapped ricotta gnocchi with sage butter. The recipe says it serves 2 as a main course, but just in case it isn’t enough we still have some of last night’s burgers to serve on the side. 🙂
This is one of those recipes that can trip you up if you (like me!) tend to pick out recipes without reading through them. Thankfully, I’ve learned that Ottolenghi recipes sometimes take prep ahead of time — I’ll always give them a quick skim and underline anything that needs to be done ahead so I don’t forget! In this case, the gnocchi can be almost entirely created a day ahead of time, which means if they’re tasty I’m going to keep track of this as a possible party food. But they have to be started about 4-5 hours before you want to eat them, so it isn’t something to make last minute.
I was planning on throwing together the gnocchi batter last night so it could chill overnight, but I forgot. Instead, I woke up this morning and assembled the batter before starting work. After lunch, I grilled the aubergine, boiled the gnocchi, and assembled everything on a baking tray. This evening it’ll be 10 minutes in the oven (and throwing together the butter sauce) and dinner will be ready. When you spread it out like that, it hardly seems like any work at all!
Meal planning with a purpose
My husband and I have decided to try eating low carb again (or at least he has — I might eat high carb lunches to avoid becoming a perpetually hangry monster). But changing our diet means looking at our meals in a new way, without sides of bread, rice, and starchy vegetables to fill us up.
So today I pulled out my favorite cookbooks to pick out some new side dishes (and a few mains that called to me!) that are mostly low carb.
It’s fun to look through recipes with a new goal in mind — foods that previously looked uninteresting or that I had just overlooked suddenly stood out as appealing choices. It also cut down on the overwhelming feeling I always seem to get when I’m trying to choose a new recipe to try.
If you’re curious, here are the dishes that made the list:
- Aubergine-wrapped ricotta gnocchi
- French beans, mangetout, and hazelnuts
- Broccolini with tofu
- Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
- Parsnip and pumpkin mash (but I’ll use celeriac and butternut squash)
- Burnt green onion dip with kale
- Mixed Chinese vegetables
- Whole roasted celery root
- Zucchini and manouri fritters
- Beef brisket croquettes with Asian coleslaw
- Five-spiced tofu, steamed eggplants, and cardamom passata
- Kohlrabi salad
- Fried tomatoes with garlic
- Turkey and courgette burgers
What do you think? If you have any favorite low carb side dishes, please share! (Just no cauliflower … it smells and tastes rotten to me.)