a simpler sound.

Holiday Eating Tip: Don't forget to eat your greens!

Over-eating becomes entirely too easy at this time of year.  There's an embarrassment of decadence at ever meal.  [My fridge currently has THREE different baked desserts in it, and that's just not okay.]

One way to lighten the heavy handed eating this time of year is through making healthy choices, particularly with all things green. I'm not a big vegetable eater, and I blame that on my early years dealing with "severe-picky-eater syndrome."

Over the years, I've learned to love the green stuff through learning how to cook them properly and with bold flavors.  This recipe is one I've perfected, and I can confidently use the word "perfect" because I literally can eat an entire bowl of these green beans [or string beans as they're referred to in New York], and there's something to be said about that feat.

This recipe paired well with my Thanksgiving meal, but it's quick enough to throw together for any weeknight meal.

My best time-saving tip is to have your shallots sliced [or minced] ahead of time and stored in the fridge [you can do this a few days in advance].  Shallots make me cry more than anything else [yes, even more than The Notebook] so I like to prep three or four at a time, and get all my sobbing out at once.

I also like to have a jar of nuts [this recipe uses slivered almonds, but walnuts work well too] toasted ahead of time, since that just saves you a step and again this ingredient can be used in a number of recipes.

I added some crisped, diced bacon at the last minute, because I had forgotten to use it in a soup I had made earlier in the week, and just had it sitting in the fridge. Typically, I don't use bacon, but just a bit makes all the difference.

Sauteed Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds

1/2lb. green beans, trimmed [I used local greens from NC]
1 shallot, thinly sliced [I was using diced shallots in two other dishes this Thanksgiving, so I just prepped them all in a fine dice]
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted [I like using A LOT of almonds, since they turn these beans into a much more filling dish, and help me stave off the third serving of mashed potatoes...]
1TBsp. olive oil [I like to use a good quality one here, since you really taste it]
1TBsp. unsalted butter [you can also omit the butter and double up on olive oil]
3TBsp. diced bacon, crisped [optional]
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the green beans for five minutes.  Submerge in an ice water bath for a couple minutes.  While you wait for the beans to cool, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat in a frying pan. Add shallots and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes.  Drain the beans and dry thoroughly.  Raise the heat to medium-high and add the beans, sauteeing for 3-5 minutes.  Add the toasted almonds and cooked bacon and toss to combine.  Garnish or toss with fresh parsley and serve immediately.  

Dough Therapy: the art of making pie.

Flour. Butter. Water.

Just a handful of ingredients can create the most incredible, flaky pie crust. There's something so therapeutic about the process of making a dough.  It's all in the cool temperature and the gentle process of rolling, rotating, adding flour, and rolling again.

The only reason I don't make pies on a daily basis is because I know how much butter goes into that crust, and I might not make it past 60 if I ate as much as I'd like. Using butter with wild abandon is not my typical modus operandi, but every once in a while, everyone needs pie. 

Here, you can see an up close look at 'dough therapy' from this Thanksgiving [special thanks to my Mom for being the on-hand photographer while I cooked] and the completed [and utterly decadent] apple pie with marzipan [recipe to come later in the week].

For the love of cheese: putting together a cheese board.

I'm fairly certain the only thing keeping me from becoming a vegan is my undying love for cheese.  There is nothing that can substitute it, nothing that can replace that perfect combination of salty and creamy.  I don't discriminate.  I've never met a cheese I didn't like [though there are certainly some I prefer over others]. 

For this Thanksgiving, I decided to handle the lunch/pre-dinner snacking with a cheese board.  I really don't do this enough, but it's entirely too easy to put together.  If I'm having a party, I usually like to choose cheeses I know well and thoroughly enjoy.  In the same way I wouldn't try a new recipe on guests, I wouldn't want to spend money on a cheese I haven't tasted.  Thankfully, if you go to a great cheese shop [or in my case, Whole Foods], the cheese mongers are so knowledgable and do a phenomenal job choosing cheeses for you, and will let you taste before you buy.  

While I was doing my Thanksgiving grocery shopping, I was inspired by this small basket of goodies, also known as "Cheese Orphans." This is by far the most affordable way to put together a cheese board, or just test a new cheese at home.  Every wedge of cheese is less than $3 and they're just a delicious as their larger counterparts.

I grabbed one of everything. I couldn't help myself! I didn't use every cheese, since typically with a cheese board, I like to keep it to only three or four selections.

By far, my favorite cheese was a Parrano, which is a cow's milk cheese from The Netherlands.  It's incredibly salty, but also buttery with a hint of sweetness.  Surprisingly, it tastes quite a bit like an aged parmesan, but is only aged for five months and is quite affordable.

I decided to pair this cheese with some of my simple homemade cranberry sauce [I'll post this recipe later in the week], since I figured the salty bite would balance well with the sweet, citrus hints of my cranberry sauce.  

Mahón was another cheese I sliced for my board [seen on the left in the below photo], which is a Spanish [specifically from the island of Minorca] cow's milk cheese.  A fairly firm chesse, this one is much more subtle in flavor, and I think would work better in a sandwich, next time around.  But it too tasted yummy with the cranberry sauce and a slice of apple [which also made a debut on my board, since I had a few extra slices leftover from my pie. 

I also snagged a small portion [not from the Cheese Orphans bin] of one of my all time favorites, Gorgonzola Dolce, an Italian mild blue that is incredibly sweet, and pairs perfectly with caramelized onions [I used a jar of my go-to store bought variety].  One thing I should note, I like to bring my cheeses to room-temperature, so I leave them out for about an hour before serving. 

I paired this board with a 2009 Bordeaux blend from Chateau Doyac. My friend, who is a wine specialist at Whole Foods, gives me a wealth of information on wine, and helped me choose this particular bottle for Thanksgiving [slightly pricier than my normal, but it was for a holiday after all...]

Finally, some Marcona almonds and rice crackers rounded out this perfect pre-Thanksgiving snack.