Friday, January 1, 2010

5:00 Fridays

Happy 2010!!!

We're starting the new year, ahem, new decade, with a guest post from one of my favorite writers. I've had the joy of hanging with her at BlogHer and hope to see lots more of her as soon as she digs out from the Iowa snow.

Drum roll.....

I’m Becky, and I blog at Deep Muck Big Rake and hang out with Ilina on Twitter (I’m @BeckyDMBR). We talk lots about drinks and dinner and wine o’clock and recipes and beer-thirty and…well, you get the idea.

I’ve been a Norwegian-by-proxy for almost 20 years, which means we have a Very Norwegian Christmas in our house every year. If you haven’t been in Norway for Christmas, you should try it sometime. Or at least celebrate with a Norwegian.

Christmas lasts forever in Norway. It starts even before Christmas with “lillejulaften” (little Christmas Eve), which is the night before Christmas Eve. The time after Christmas and before New Year’s is called romjul, a time when you visit extended family and friends. Unless you work in retail or in the medical system, chances are good you get the whole time off.

You can find several ways to get into the holiday “spirit” in Norway: juleøl (Christmas beer), aquavit (“water of life” *cough, cough*) and gløgg (mulled wine). Gløgg is especially festive after an afternoon of sledding or snowman-building. It fills your house with the warm, spicy goodness of the season. You can make an alcohol-free version for the kids (although mine still prefer hot chocolate).

The absolute easiest way to make gløgg is to use a bottled mix and just add water or red wine. (Many Scandinavian stores sell the bottles online. You can also check German stores for glühwein mix. They’re similar.) Or you can make your own.

I tried both this year.

Here’s a recipe from the cookbook, The Norwegian Kitchen, written by The Association of Norwegian Chefs.

2/3 cup port wine
2/3 cup sherry
2/3 cup Madeira
1/3 cup red wine
4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods

Combine in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Serve warm in cups with raisins and blanched almonds. Place a teaspoon in each glass.

I prefer the mix. It’s sweeter. Whatever you prefer, play around with it and have fun.


Have a wonderful New Year! Godt nytt år!
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Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year's Eve Whine

The year was 2003. I was five months pregnant with Bird. We had bought and renovated an 80-something year old house. We were planting roots.

And then I got laid off from my job at an advertising agency. Funny how it's so easy to fire a pregnant woman, yet it's a stretch to hire one. I did get another job, though that agency was toxic, and I left soon after Bird was born. Our once comfortable life was beginning to crack a tish. The year proved to be bittersweet, with the sweet beating out the bitter.

Bird was a lovely, easy baby. He brought us so much joy and completely changed our perspective of the world. You'd never see me without a camera as I snapped every little milestone and cornerstone. I started my marketing consulting business (What, you mean you thought the words on this screen pay my student loans? Not by a long shot.). Baby Deal came soon after, 22 months after Baby Bird.


Our lives were complete, if not completely chaotic. We juggled two more house renovations, two jobs, two kids, one breast cancer scare, all on our own without the benefit of family. What could have torn me and Mac Daddy to shreds actually made us stronger. We became our own little hub, knowing it was up to us to protect and nurture this little foursome we call Family. well, we call ourselves The Curried Cheeseheads too as a nod to our mixed Indian and Wisconsonian heritage.

Every year since that fateful layoff in 2003 we have chanted on New Year's Eve, "This is gonna be our year." So far our mantra has failed us.

We haven't caught up to where our lives (and bank accounts) were. We've faced some scary illnesses, bid farewell to friends, battled some demons, lost our beloved pets, and buried a father.

Life's hardships are de rigeur. Our downs are not as low as others', and our ups are grander than most. But, there was so much left unaccomplished this year. So much stress. Too many financial obligations. Not enough time. Too little of everyone and everything to go around. I'm not complaining, though I am admittedly whining a bit.

I'm letting 2009 go with a sigh. A great big exhale.

Then I'll hold my breath for a moment. Count my blessings. Kiss my family. Cuddle my dog.


Welcome 2010. This is gonna be our year.
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Baba Ghanouj from Scratch

Here's a recipe I posted a while back on Foodie Mama. It's a real crowd pleaser, and since we're still in for a few more days of entertaining, I figured I'd pass this along. Have some red wine or Sambuca on hand.

I'm from the kind of family who travels for food. We talk about what we ate 12 years ago at a mom n' pop place in Palm Springs, the extraordinary apple strudel we had in Heidelberg, the ostrich we enjoyed in Walnut Springs, the eisbein we shared at a neighborhood pub in Berlin. We talk about food. A lot. Chances are our dinner conversation revolves around what we ate once upon a time or what we're going to eat next. In my family food is the great equalizer among us.

And now my sons chime right in. They share memories of eating with their fingers while watching the belly dancers at the Moroccan restaurant in Savannah, squishing the injera at the Ethiopian restaurant, gasping in awe at the flaming haloumi in Chicago, squealing at chef's knife tricks at the habachi grill, and tossing the crawfish tails into the hole cut into the table at the Crab Shack on Tybee Island. Bird and Deal clamor to visit places like Hawaii, Italy, India, and France just to try the local flavors that we talk about. Their latest kick is Greece. The boys don't know this yet, but Mac Daddy and I are trying to swing a family trip to Greece next year to celebrate our tenth anniversary.

In the mean time, we have to settle for the Greek delights we can find in our fair city. Since no one's baba ghanouj is up to snuff, I've tried my hand at making it myself. I have no idea if it's authentic but I do know it tastes damn good.

Baba Ghanouj

  • 1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup tahini (You can make it, but I just buy it to keep things simple.)
  • juice of 1 lemon (Fresh lemon is imperative! I will totally hold it against you if you use the stuff that comes in the plastic lemon shaped bottle.)
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • teaspoon cumin
  • pinch of cayenne
  • handful flat leaf parsley
  • salt to taste

Score the eggplant several times and roast at 350 degrees for about an hour. Let it cool. Scrape out the meat, seeds and all, from the eggplant into a food processor. No skin or stem! Add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until it becomes the consistency of creamy dip. A few chunks are okay so don't over process or the baba ghanouj lest it turns out too runny. Serve in a bowl garnished with a few black olives and sprigs of parsley. Cut pita bread into wedges and serve along with some carrot sticks, cucumber slices, or whatever crudite tickles your fancy.

I happened to use a Ninja Kitchenfor my baba ghanouj.

Full disclosure here: I got to go on a blogger junket to New York to see the Food Network's Robin Miller demonstrate the many uses of the Ninja Kitchen. I was lucky enough to get one for free so I have waved buh-bye to my old blender and food processor. The Ninja Kitchen makes perfect dip, smoothies, soups, and all kinds of other stuff. I will tell you that former attempts at making baba ghanouj resulted in the wrong consistency so the Ninja Kitchen worked perfectly for me. A blender definitely won't cut it.


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