Pumpkins and Chili: 2013 Edition

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This year, my favorite blogs and magazines were all about hosting pumpkin carving parties. We knew carving parties were cool back in 2009. I'm glad everyone else is catching up.

For this get-together I made sooooo much chili, like two huge dutch ovens worth, and I still had barely any leftovers. Next year, I'm going to have to find a giant cauldron.

To change things up, I added a little chorizo and whole chiles in adobe to this version. The chili had a nice smoky spiciness. Topped with fried onions, cheddar and sour cream, it was my best batch so far. I don't know what I'm going to do next year to make it more delicious, but I better start my brainstorming now.
We had seven carvers. There were tiny pumpkins and huge ones. The first and second place winners were the usual suspects, although a few newcomers received an honorable mention. And of course there were a few duds.
Babies love to mess stuff up. I miss the days she could barely sit up.
First place (top), and second place (bottom).

Another pumpkin carving under our belt. Who's ready for Turkey Day?


Fall so Far

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The last few months seemed to have flown by at a super fast pace. Wasn't it just August? And I haven't done a good job of taking photos while I cook. But there's been a lot of cooking, and eating, sprinkled in with interesting fall activities. Below are a few highlights from September on.
We ate at Neptune's Net for the first time. And there's a new Japanese restaurant in town, Osawa. It's pretty sweet, and I saw Tig from Sons of Anarchy there!
This has been the season of sazeracs. We've been drinking them out and at home. Oh, and roasted garlic with sea salt, spread on bread, is amazing.
I've been making lots of Asian soups -- miso, ramen, udon.
 Breakfast of champions -- blueberry ricotta pancakes and bagels.
 Dinners by the fire = lots of grilled cheese.
 First lasagna of the season, loaded with sausage.
 Quick easy dinners, lentils over mashed potatoes and fish chowder.
 Testing turkey recipes on chicken.
 The husband experiments with rolls for Turkey Day.
Oh, and I conquered my fear of keeping my head underwater and finally learned how to swim properly! It's been pretty great, and I'm swimming a whole mile. Is it too late to join the Olympic team?


Wine, with Steaks and Potatoes

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If you've ever been wine tasting, you know that after three wineries, your judgement is clouded in a blissful haze, and all the wines you taste are incredibly delicious, and the people you're with are so funny, and you forget that you promised yourself you'd only buy six bottles during this trip...

Well, on our last trip, the husband's blissful haze included convincing our friends to purchase expensive bottles of wine and promising to cook them dinner -- steak, lamb chops, you name it -- if they brought the bottle along.

When the husband makes food-related promises, it more than likely means I'll be spending time in the kitchen. And on this particular evening, steaks were acquired to accompany a 2006 Kiamie Kuvee -- a rich, smooth, and velvety wine. For this occasion, one of us grilled two rib eyes, and the other, spent quality time in the kitchen cooking the fillet mignon and sides. Unfortunately, I didn't capture the grilled steaks, but here's some photos of my cooking.
 Blue cheese dressing, so easy to make at home, I'm going to do it more often.
 Mashed potatoes with a roasted yam (for color) and A LOT of roasted garlic.
My little steaks cooked in butter with garlic and rosemary.
The wedge. Perfect company for meat and potatoes.

Blue Cheese Dressing
via David Lebovitz
Makes 1 cup, about four servings

4 oz blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
a few turns freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1/4 cup sour cream, regular or lowfat
1/4 cup  buttermilk (If you can’t get buttermilk, mix one part milk (whole or lowfat) with one part plain yogurt (regular or lowfat) to approximate the taste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
a few drops of red wine vinegar

1)  In a medium bowl, mash the blue cheese with the salt and pepper with the back of a fork until the pieces of cheese are finely broken up.
2) Stir in the chives, sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice or wine vinegar until well mixed.

3) Add a few drops of red wine vinegar. Taste, and adjust any of the seasonings to your liking and if the dressing too thick, add a bit more buttermilk.