I love a lot of things about Mrs. Cratchit: her energy, her spunk, and the obvious love and respect she has for her husband. However, more than anything, I love how Mrs. Cratchit sees her family’s financial status not as a burden but as a challenge to be met. Scrooge notes that the Cratchit meal is quite modest in its size and components, almost inadequate for a family of that size. However, to Mrs. Cratchit, this simply means that the quality of the meal is that much more important. She spares no effort in infusing the basic fair—goose, potatoes, and applesauce—with every bit of deliciousness her repertoire of cooking techniques has to offer.

That in mind, I decided to make Mrs. Cratchit’s mashed potatoes for our Christmas Carol side dish. These elegant baked mashed potatoes don’t require any fancy ingredients or expensive tools…just a little extra effort to make a humble potato shine.

P.S. You can find the original recipe here.

Duchess Potatoes

“Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet everyone had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows!”
— A Christmas Carol

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INGREDIENTS:

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  • 3 lb russet potatoes (for me, this was about 5 medium potatoes)
  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 6 egg yolks
  • fresh parsley (for garnish)
  • Makes 4 servings

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 275°. Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters.

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    You can leave little patches of skin for color or texture if you like, but keep in mind that this may make it difficult to pipe the mashed potatoes when you reach the final step.

  2. Add the potatoes to a cooking pot and fill the pot with cold water until the potatoes are completely submerged.
  3. Boil the potatoes on medium-high heat for approximately 25 minutes or until fork tender, taking care not to over-boil.
  4. Pour out the water and let the potatoes sit in the hot pot for a bit (this will allow the excess moisture to evaporate away. You want the potatoes to be a bit on the dry side when you begin to mash them). After 3-5 minutes, coarsely mash the potatoes.

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    This texture was achieved with the latest potato mashing technology: a heavy glass.

  5.  Add the potatoes to a food processor or blender  and blend until they are super smooth.

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    You want them to be as smooth as possible when piping them, so over-blending isn’t really an issue.

  6. Add the butter, salt, and pepper and blend until thoroughly combined.
  7. Add the egg yolks and stir until just combined.
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  8. Allow the mixture to cool for 3-5 minutes. When it is cool enough to handle, pour it into a large plastic bag. Seal the bag shut (pushing out any excess air), and cut one of the bottom corners away. You’re ready to start piping!

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    To prevent spillage, open the bag and push the bottom into a tall glass. Fold the open end of the bag over the sides of the glass and pour your potatoes into the bag.

  9. Pipe the mashed potatoes into oven-safe ramekins in an ascending spiral pattern.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes or until heated through, then turn up the heat to 400° and bake until the tops begin to brown (about 15 minutes).

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    I used 7 oz ramekins. Larger ramekins will need a longer cook time; smaller ramekins will need a shorter cook time.

  11. Garnish with bits of fresh parsley and serve warm with Mrs. Cratchit’s Sage and Onion Roasted Drumsticks!

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    Can we just talk about these plates for a minute? I’m super excited about them. My grandma is moving to a smaller house and gave me these Christmas plates to ensure they’d go to a good home. I’ve been itching to use them ever since I started this menu, but I’m glad I saved them for this recipe. They’re such a great backdrop for the potatoes! The plates also came with a set of HUGE mugs. Thanks, Grandma! :)

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Yesterday was my very first anniversary! In honor of the day, I’d like to share with you the story of my wedding ring. Enjoy!

 

I love colors. Combine this with the fact that I have always been “just a little different,” and it’s not that surprising that my wedding ring has a blue stone instead of a diamond. I don’t really like jewelry, but I love this ring, even if it’s not what you would call perfect.

The large natural sapphire in the center of the ring is technically flawed; three diagonal stripes (one wide, two narrow) cut across the length of the gem. I noticed this when the jeweler first presented the ring to me in the store. I knew I could ask to have the natural stone replaced with a flawless lab-grown sapphire, but as soon as I saw the stripy little gem, I suddenly felt very protective of it. This was my ring, and it was my gem. Somehow, it seemed very important to accept it for “who” it was.

I understand now why keeping the natural, flawed gem was important. This ring is a tangible symbol of my marriage. It’s my message to the world that I’ve entered into an indelible covenant and changed the very nature of my soul by bonding it to someone else’s. That’s something sacred and beautiful…but that doesn’t mean it’s always beautiful.

There are fights and struggles. There are weeks when I am alone because the Mister is working full time while in grad school, and he often falls asleep soon after homework is done. There is strain when finances are tight. There are times when the Mister tells me that a dish I made for the website “looks like a Big Mac gone wrong” (true story).

But those bad times—those “flaws” in the sapphire of our relationship—don’t change the nature of our marriage. The weeks of loneliness have made us more creative in finding little ways to show our appreciation for each other (little notes, surprise desserts packed with lunch, etc.). We learned to budget together, so finances are something we tackle as one. For every time the Mister is critical, there are twenty times when he goes out of his way to build me up and lift my spirits.

I’ve learned that the bad times help you grow, if you let them. Yet, no matter how hard you work at your marriage, you will never be immune to bad times. You can never make all the flaws go away, because the fact is, you’re flawed. So is your spouse. You always will be.

Our marriage is not perfect. We are not perfect. Neither is my sapphire…but that does not change the fact that it is a precious gem.

Our marriage is a precious gem too. I chose to keep my striped sapphire that day at the jeweler’s because I knew something that I couldn’t articulate at the time:

It’s more important to be real than perfect.

Screenshot 2014-12-15 21.15.38 (2)

This image is copyrighted by Phelps Photography.


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The roast goose or turkey is an icon of Victorian Christmas, and it’s clear that Mrs. Cratchit has a deft hand when it comes to its preparation. A full-size bird would have made a great entrée for our menu, but I could hardly justify roasting 10 pounds of turkey for just the Mister and myself. These roasted turkey legs were a nice compromise. I got the preparation technique from The Pioneer Woman, but I used my own blend of spices to match Mrs. Cratchit’s sage and onion goose. The end result was a set of juicy drumsticks with heartwarmingly homey flavor and crispy skin.

P.S. The proportion of the ingredients in your brine and seasoning will be primarily determined by the size of your turkey legs. This goes for cook time as well. The legs I used were very large (1 1/2 lb each), so you may have to adjust your time and materials for smaller legs.

Mrs. Cratchit’s Sage & Onion Drumsticks

“There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration.”
— A Christmas Carol

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INGREDIENTS:

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  • 2 large turkey legs
  • FOR THE BRINE:
    • 1/2 cup kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or 1/4 cup brown, 1/4 cup dark brown)
    • 1/2 tbsp ground sage
    • 1/2 tbsp onion powder
    • 1 medium-sized bay leaf
    • 4 cups water
    • a lot of ice
  • FOR THE DRY RUB:
    • 1 tbsp ground sage
    • 1 tbsp onion powder
    • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • Makes 2-4 servings

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pour all the ingredients for your brine into a large pot. Stir it for a minute or two to give the sugar and salt a chance to start dissolving. Then, bring it to a boil, stirring every once in a while.
  2. As soon as the brine starts boiling, turn off the heat and allow the brine to cool completely. Pour the brine into a large bowl and add the turkey legs, making sure they are completely submerged. Add as much ice as you can without the bowl overflowing. Cover with plastic wrap.

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    The amount of ice isn’t crazy important. You just need enough to keep the legs cold. In fact, I ran out of ice and just popped my bowl in the fridge after the ice melted. It still worked great!

  3. Allow the turkey to brine for 4-6 hours. When your turkey legs are just about done brining, preheat your oven to 400° and mix together the ingredients for your dry rub.

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    Beware of overbrining, as it can make the turkey very salty.

  4. Remove the turkey legs from the brine and rinse under cold water. Pat the legs dry with a paper towel and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet (you can discard the used brine). Rub the dry rub all over the turkey, including under the skin.

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    I skipped the rinsing step, but I also brined for only 4 hours. If you brine the legs for closer to 6 hours, definitely rinse.

  5. The original recipe calls for roasting the turkey legs at 400° for 20 minutes, then turning the oven down to 300° and roasting for another 15 minutes. Since I was roasting larger legs, I cooked them at 400° for 35 minutes and 300° for 25 minutes. Adjust the cook time as you see fit.
  6. In the end, the skin should be crispy and golden brown, and the meat should be tender with clear juices (since this is dark meat, some of the meat will still be pink, even when it’s finished).

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    To ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked, check the turkey’s internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It should read 165° Fahrenheit.

  7. Serve warm at a Christmas dinner with family. Don’t forget to ask Tiny Tim to say grace!

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    My favorite thing about these legs is that, when you reheat them, the skin is still crispy and the meat is still juicy. Of course, there weren’t many leftovers. The Mister ate a whole leg on his own!


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Thanksgiving is over and December is here, which means it’s officially acceptable to start thinking about Christmas! As you may have guessed, our new Book of the Month is
A Christmas Carol. Seasonally appropriate, yes?

Just before seeing the ghost of Marley, Scrooge settles in for a hearty dinner of…gruel. As interesting as it would be to make authentic Victorian gruel, it’s famous for pretty much tasting like oatmeal water (which is exactly what it is). Instead, I decided to make a bowl of oatmeal that would thaw even the likes of Ebeneezer Scrooge on a cold winter’s day. The recipe is simple, but each ingredient has something special about it. It made a great winter breakfast for the Mister and myself!

P.S. The oats used here are the steel cut variety, which take longer to cook than quick or instant oats. Plan for about 35 minutes of cook time.

Oatmeal to Warm a Cold Heart

“But before he shut his heavy door, he walked through his rooms to see that all was right…Sitting-room, bed-room, lumber-room. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (Scrooge has a cold in his head) upon the hob.”
— A Christmas Carol
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INGREDIENTS
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  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/2 cup Irish steel cut oats
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 6-8 dried cranberries
  • 6 fresh mint leaves (not pictured because I thought of them at the last minute)
  • Makes 2 servings

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Gently heat the almond milk in a small saucepan (heating it too quickly can cause it to condense and stick to the bottom of the pan).
  2. When the almond milk has reached a brisk boil, add the oats.
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  3. Allow the oats to boil for about 3-5 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken. You’ll want to keep an eye on it and stir frequently, to prevent the oatmeal from bubbling too high.
  4. Lower the heat and let the oats simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
  5. It’s ready to eat when most of the liquid has boiled away and the oats are soft (they’ll still have a bit of firmness at the center—this is normal for steel cut oats).
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  6. To serve, pour the oatmeal in a bowl and sprinkle on the brown sugar. Top with 3 mint leaves and a few dried cranberries.
  7. Serve to your favorite Christmas ghost! :)
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I had so much fun making the Hunger Games menu this past month, especially the lamb stew (it’s one of my favorite recipes now). Last week’s Katniss Cakes marked the end of the menu, so it’s time to welcome December with a new Book of the Month! Your photo hint is below. Can you guess it?

NOTE: If you’d like one more taste of the Hunger Games, check out our custom tea blend, Tea on Fire, from Adagio Teas!

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