Hello from weather that practically feels like fall in South Carolina!...
Today is Jay's birthday, and to celebrate he slept through the night in our bed all by himself, lucky duck, and then left for a work trip this morning. He also forgot it was his birthday until I said something to him.
Pros and cons to that one, tbh. Two nights in a hotel room alone sounds AMAZING. Two days of PowerPoints and projections...yawn. Hopefully the food will be good.
Today is my mom's birthday. Sometimes as we age birthdays come and go with little fanfare, with a lot of fanfare, or hardly noticed because so many other things are going on. We have a lot going on, so this is a little bit of fanfare for you, Mama.
I also have come to realize that some people don't like pictures of themselves splashed all over the internet, so instead, for visual appeal, we have pictures of Beck In Glasses, which I find very appealing. Yep, I'm biased, and this is my site, so look or don't at the cute kid. I dare you not to smile a little bit.
ONE WEEK TO THANKSGIVING!
This isn't about that, though. There are definitely some links below on what you should definitely absolutely cook, but this is mainly a gush-fest about the best.weekend.ever that I had a few days ago.
I've talked about this before, but my a cappella work now stems from my a cappella group in college, think Andy from The Office meets the cast of pitch perfect but with no autotune and more legit problems. Same adoration for each other, same adoration for the music.
So a bunch of us got together last weekend! Six from my old group, one fiancee, and one baby. It was the best ever, and I came back so refreshed and reminded of how much I love those women, how lucky we are to have each other, how stupid we are to not see each other more.
I was also lucky enough to cook a lot of the food, including a big Friendsgiving spread with my friend Lexy, and a soup on Friday night that I'm going to show you very soon. It's perfect for the come-and-go crazy holiday weeks we're entering into right now.
This super easy healthy Thanksgiving side dish is made in the microwave with just a few ingredients! The citrus + ginger in this healthy sweet potato casserole SHINES, and anything off the stovetop and out of the oven is a win for big holiday meals. We love this as a side dish for garlicky roast pork as well!
...I type as I'm going back and forth with two different families about Thanksgiving menus, aka MY SUPER BOWL.
I love meal planning so much, it's just the best.
THESE, also, are just the best, I present to you, Grandmother's Sweet Potatoes (healthy sweet potato casserole). My grandmother was a lifelong reader, and very often would send me recipes or clippings of food articles she found that she thought would interest me (they all did, I adore reading about food). I think that's how this recipe came to be; she found a version of it in the newspaper or in a magazine, then my dad started making it once he took on Thanksgiving for our family.
We have these lightened up sweet potatoes every Christmas and Thanksgiving, and I've already made them once this year for a Friendsgiving! They are SO good, and really different from anything else sweet potato you've had before, I can almost promise.
First and foremost, this entire recipe can be made in the microwave, which is huge when it comes to fighting for oven space before big meals. We've finished these in the oven or microwave, and I swear you can't tell the difference one way or another. The sweet potatoes are also initially baked in the microwave, which saves time and doesn't heat up the whole dang house. THEN, the potatoes are mashed with lemon juice and orange juice and just a teensy hint of salt, sugar, and butter. The mixture goes into a baking dish, is nuked or baked a little more, and the lightest, brightest sweet potatoes ever are ready for your Thanksgiving table.
Reviews last weekend included "I was not expecting to like these at all but I did!" So, there. Glowing? Glowing!...
I'm like a damn broken record with the "it's finally cold, need cozy food" repetition, but heartier foods all of a sudden taste so much more satisfying, comforting, necessary. Speaking of comforting, this dish finds a way to cram potatoes, naan, and rice into a single meal without it feeling terribly indulgent (Jay is like, yes it does please stop), and I'm not mad about it one little bit.
This curry is a total knockoff of my brother in law Joe's mother Ruby's standard, this-is-what-we-always-eat curry. Jay's sister Elizabeth and Joe have been together since long before I was around and got married just a few months before we did, so I've been lucky enough to eat Ruby's curry on several occasions. I'm not going to talk about what type of curry this is, because Ruby is Indian (but I don't know where in India she is from and there are a gazillion regions of cuisine to factor in here) AND has lived many places in her life, so I'm calling this a fusion curry. For the purpose of using actual words to describe food, it is a Madras curry, very mild but very flavorful, stewed for several hours with tomato paste until beef chunks fall apart like any good stewed beef does.
So, you'll imagine my disappointment when I made the plan to cook this and discovered that I had used all of my Madras curry powder but also the time to cook was NOW because of nap time and daylight. So I improvised, making this an even more fusiony curry than the usual fusion Ruby rocks. The spice blend that I used is an equal combination of garam masala and yellow curry powder, and I alllllmost couldn't tell a difference besides obviously that I'm not an Indian mom and my curry will never be as good as one.
But, I've learned a few tips and tricks from my sister in law and Joe, who blessedly texted me through this whole process, and the approximation we're left with here is still damn good. So let's curry!
Tomorrow is our four year anniversary. Four! A fun number of years to be married, and 2.5 before that of dating. That means that in 6 months we'll hit our first 7 year itch, is that how that works?
Let's not talk about it.
Today! Some of our favorites. Things to do, stores, restaurants, recipes, all of it. We really enjoy outdoor things that Beck can enjoy, and have a few restaurants that we'll go back to faithfully no matter what. We are very Stepbrothers-ish in that we love SO MANY ACTIVITIES, and we can do them a lot right now because we don't have older kids with homework and sports and activities of their own. There are a few kid products listed here because our kid is a huge focus of ours, but some of these things are things that we love doing just the two of us.
Do you ever have a weekend that is just fun? Not stressful fun like weddings, not "fun" like going to a million birthday parties. Those things are fantastic and a part of life and have a great place in life, but sometimes things labeled as fun end up being like a lot of work.
See: preparing for a beach trip. ...
You know what's great about being unemployed post-college?
Let me start over. You know what's great for me about one of my sisters being unemployed? (she's like, omg please stop)
The food and the babysitting, tbh. And the hanging out!
My youngest sister Julianne (Aunt J to those of us not really doing three syllables yet) graduated from college a few weeks ago and is heavily in the throes of interviewing and applying to jobs. She's had some offers, is contemplating her life, and I'm thinking in about five seconds she's going to move somewhere epic and leave us in the sticks forever.
So in the meantime, I'm soaking up all the time with her I can get. She's also in the process of moving out of her apartment, which means when she finds massive onions and has nothing to cook with them she pickles them and brings them to me! Which is what happened here. I'm a huge fan of pickled onions and love that they've been coming more and more in restaurants, on sandwiches and tacos especially. Julianne's pickles this time were particularly good, so I asked her how she made them. I have them featured as condiments in a few upcoming recipes for the blog, and I knew you'd be dying to know how the onions came to be in my fridge. (you're like, omg please stop)
It's real. It's legal. It's over.
It was GREAT. ...
Beck is one today! It's unreal and exciting and sad and a normal day all at once. I've been looking over and over pictures from the past year, and wanted to share some of my favorites on this very special day. ...
Party could be swapped in for parsley here, FOR SURE.
So, this summer, when I was on my blog break, my sister got married! To Ben. Ben hadn't been around for suuuuper long, but he wears black plastic glasses and has a short beard and bald head like my husband, so we went with it. It's rather uncanny.
But really! My sister and Ben had been together for about a year and are both teachers, so I think they had a moment where they looked at each other, shrugged, and planned a wedding and a house sale and a move in 6 weeks. Quick and dirty was exactly what my sister wanted (I'm the same, the extended engagements aren't our thing), so they got married and now we have a new brother in law and a new niece, who happens to be a killer baker.
Ben's a great cook and experiments with new recipes a lot, which I appreciate at family events especially because I tend to make the same things for every holiday and feel annoyed at myself for not changing it up. A version of this classic cheese ball was present at Thanksgiving and I IMMEDIATELY knew that it needed to make an appearance on this blog for your Christmas spread. It's a super easy recipe, but the contrast of the rich cheese and tons of parsley is just insanely delicious to me. See also: raw onion really finely diced that adds huge flavor to the ball after it sits in the fridge for a few hours. Not oniony, just flavorful. Promise.
4-day weekends are the absolute best kind of weekend. WHY don't we get them more often? Labor and Memorial Day (s) are just a tease compared to Thanksgiving. ...
We went to Nashville! And now I'm going to tell you about it. How's that for a topic sentence?
That's Beck's response to most of my writing. And to Nashville, where that picture was taken.
On July 4th weekend Jay/Beck/I went to Nashville with my sister Julianne, who is doing a summer internship in Memphis. Nashville is kind of the only cool place at a midway point and we missed her, so we went for it! Jay had been to Nashville years ago and I've been approximately 9,837 times for work, but my work trips have been REALLY to work, stay in big hotels and not leave, that kind of thing. So, we found ourselves never having actually done much of anything in the city, so it was great to experience it all together.
Guys. This weekend. I'm all at once sad it's over, elated it happened, and a little worn out.
Ok, maybe a lot worn out. College parties are tough on 30 year olds with babies. Beck didn't get the memo that I'd need to sleep longer stretches than usual this weekend.
So, this weekend Jay, Beck and I went to Burlington, NC to go to the spring concert of my collegiate a cappella group, Sweet Signatures. Now, for those of you who are office fans, you'll know that collegiate a cappella can sometimes form lifelong bonds, strong sentimental feelings, and great memories. CHECK to all 3 of those. Anyone who reads this blog also knows that I also stayed in a cappella as an employee for the company that runs a huge aca-tournament, the same company that the Pitch Perfect movies were based on. So. Suffice it to say that Sweet Signatures was the start of an enormous part of my life, truly the most consistent positive presence in my life for 12 years, which is a big chunk for the young 30 year old that I am. Ha.
Today we say goodbye to Grandmother one more time.
I'm excited - that isn't the right word, but you know what I mean. Funerals are wonderful in that you do get to intentionally share stories and memories and process happiness and sadness - something that we don't do often enough.
I'm also happy to see family that I don't see often, introduce Beck to lots of cousins and aunts and uncles, and spend some quiet (or loud, who knows) time in the car with just Jay and Beck.
Have a WONDERFUL weekend, no matter what your plans are.
My grandmother died yesterday afternoon.
She was alone in her house and was living her life one minute and talking to her sons and puttering around and then she just wasn't anymore.
We found out around 6pm, on our way to do a talk about Beck's birth - speaking of the circle of life.