What a great Thanksgiving it's been! Jared and I started a new tradition where I make all the food on Wednesday and we eat it Wednesday night. That way, we can leisurely eat left overs all day on Thursday! This morning we slept in, then made pancakes together!
We've never made pancakes before. Isn't that funny? So we were particularly pleased with how well they turned out. Thanks bisquick!

I really enjoyed cooking Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. I chose recipes that I have never made before so it was pretty exciting! Pork loin with fennel stuffing, macaroni cheese casserole and brussels sprouts with bacon constituted our feast. The pork loin was the most risky recipe of the bunch.
My favorite was the macaroni cheese casserole, I'll share that recipe with you guys soon.

In other news, I accomplished goal number 4 of my 26 goals before I'm 27! I created an etsy shop! And I already made one sale (thanks Sharon!)! Right now I only have one item up, but hopefully there will be more to come soon. Go check out the shop, and if you're an etsy member be sure to favorite me! I added a link on the side bar to my shop with pictures of the items for sale, you can click on those pictures to take you to my shop as well.

My plans for the rest of this special day are: bake an apple pie, crochet a snow flake garland, and put up the Christmas tree! I'm super excited about all three. What are your Thanksgiving traditions that you're looking forward to? 
My 26th birthday is in a few weeks. Elsie, over at A Beautiful Mess inspired me to create a list of goals to accomplish before my 27th birthday. So I sat down with a text file and brainstormed! I'll share my goals over the following days before my birthday. I'll also keep you all posted on how these goals are coming along. Wish me luck!

1. Bake a loaf of sandwich bread from scratch.
I've made pie crusts, pizza crusts, corn bread, cake, cupcakes, brownies, breakfast breads, scones, but never a plain old loaf of sandwich bread. It's the yeast and the rising and the kneading that scares me.

2. Make naan.

I love Indian food. It's probably my favorite food. I love all the creaminess and spiciness. I'm working on becoming a better Indian food cook. I've only made dal shorva and (very inauthentic) samosas, but I feel like if I can make it over the naan obstacle, I'll be a better person for it. : )

3. Knit a Shale Baby Blanket.
Image from Brooklyn Tweed
Isn't it gorgeous! I love the combination of cables and lace. It was designed by celebrity knitter, Jared Flood. I've never knit any of his designs before, because I've never been anywhere close to good enough to understand his patterns. But I'm feeling more confident this year now that I learned how to knit cables! Looking at that picture makes me inhale deeply through my nose, close my eyes, and exhale. I really think it's that beautiful. Someone has to have a baby though, before I knit it. You can't just knit baby blankets for no particular baby, that's weird.

Do you like making goals? Does it inspire you, or make you feel stressed and discouraged? I usually don't make specific goals like this, so we'll see how it goes! I'll post more soon!
I mentioned a few days ago that Ina Garten is my second favorite celebrity chef. My "Barefoot Contessa at Home" cookbook dons battle scars of spilled mashed potatoes, dog eared pages, and neon post it notes marking my favorite recipes. One such recipe is her jalapeno cheddar corn bread. I modified it to make this simple corn bread. It is divine! As a co-worker noted, I am now a "corn bread fiend" At my worst, I ate 6 squares in one day. Don't knock it till you try it!

I consider myself a corn bread snob, in addition to fiend. Having sampled many a corn bread, I believe I have mastered the art, and have successfully created the prefect corn bread, or at least perfect to me. I prefer it to be soft, moist and crumbly and not too sweet. If you also yearn for this holy grail of corn bread, if you're sick of the dry, saccharine mess, passing itself for corn bread, that plagues our supermarkets and restaurant chains, look no further. 
 Behold! The perfect ingredients for the perfect corn bread: All purpose flour, whole milk, salt, baking powder, 3 eggs, corn meal, 2 sticks unsalted butter, sugar (but not too much)!
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt.)
In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs and add milk.
Melt the butter in your microwave. It took me about a minute and a half. Stir the butter into the milk and eggs. The coldness of the milk will coagulate the hot butter, but don't worry, it will melt again in the oven.
Now pour the chunky liquid mixture of butter, eggs and milk into the dry ingredients.
Stir with a spoon until there are no patches of dry ingredients, depicted in the picture above. Be sure to scratch the bottom of the bowl so no flour is hiding. It will be pretty bumpy and chunky, this is how we want it! Let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. I'm not sure why. But why mess with a good thing? Preheat oven to 350.
Pour the batter into a buttered 9 X 13 X 2 inch baking pan. (Read that sentence aloud. Be sure to pronounce the "X" as "by." So many plosives! ) Smooth out the batter, and cook for 30 minutes. No more, no less. At least if you live in the midwest and have the same oven as I do. Otherwise, give yourself 30-35 minutes. It is done when a toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool and cut into 24 squares, that's at least 4 days worth! Add this recipe to your Thanksgiving Feast this year! I use it for stuffing, but it would also be great instead of a regular old roll. Please, please try it. You'll never be the same!

Simple Corn Bread
adapted from "Barefoot Contessa at Home"

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tblspns baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups whole milk
3 eggs
2 sticks unsalted butter, plus some to grease the pan

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs and add milk.
Melt the butter. Stir the butter into the milk and eggs. 
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour batter into greased 9 X 13 X 2 inch baking pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool and cut into 24 squares.
I love corn so much, I eat corn bread with my corn chowder. My sister-in-law shared this recipe for corn chowder she found on Pioneer Woman blog. It is so freaking good. That is as close as I will ever get to swearing on this blog, but this soup deserves an expletive adjective. Let's make it!
You will need: 5 ears of corn, 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 2 tblspns butter, 32 oz. low sodium chicken broth, 4 oz chopped green chilies, 1 big yellow onion, 2 slices of bacon chopped into 1/2 inch pieces. Not shown: 3 tblspns corn meal, 1/4 cup water and salt to taste. 
Chop your onion. Shuck and cut off the kernels from your corn. Slice your bacon, and dice two chipotle peppers, too. Make sure to wash your hands after you touch the peppers!
In a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, cook the bacon on medium heat until it starts to crackle and shrink. Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes. Plop the butter in and stir to melt. Pour in the corn and cook for about a minute. Next, stir in both kinds of peppers. Pour in the whole box of chicken broth and 1 1/2 cups of cream. Stir till combined and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, stir together the water and corn meal until the corn meal dissolves. Once the soup is boiling, reduce heat to low and add the corn meal, water concoction. Cook over low heat for 15 more minutes. The soup should be much thicker now. If you would like to make it even more creamy, add a bit more corn meal and water mixed together and cook for another 10 minutes. Now it's ready! Serve it with some delicious bread, preferably corn bread. I'll share my recipe soon!

Spicy Corn Chowder
from The Pioneer Woman

2 slices bacon 
2 tblspns butter
1 large yellow onion
5 ears corn
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 oz can of diced green chilies
32 oz low sodium chicken broth
1.5 cups heavy cream
salt to taste
3 tblspns corn meal
1/4 cup water

Chop your onion. Shuck the corn and cut off the kernels. Slice your bacon, and dice two chipotle peppers.
In a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, cook the bacon on medium heat until it starts to crackle and shrink. Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes. Plop the butter in and stir to melt. Pour in the corn and cook for about a minute. Next, stir in both kinds of peppers. Pour in the whole box of chicken broth and 1 1/2 cups of cream. Stir till combined and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, stir together the water and corn meal until the corn meal dissolves. Once the soup is boiling, reduce heat to low and add the corn meal, water concoction. Cook over low heat for 15 more minutes and serve.

P.S. I know what you're thinking. "Why are these photos so bad? When I looked at the Pioneer Woman blog, her pictures were much more appetizing and artistic." Well, I have a few excuses. My kitchen has no windows, so there is no natural light which makes for better pictures. During the summer I would often place plates on the floor of the living room so I could get some sun light for optimal photos! But now that it's fall, the sun basically sets at 4 pm, way before dinner is ready, so even that isn't an option. You'll just have to wait till next summer for more pleasing pictures!
Marcus Samuelsson is my favorite celebrity chef. Ina Garten is a close second. Her recipes, though classic American/European staples I've made a million times, can sometimes be onerous. Marcus Samuelsson's cuisine, on the other hand, is exotic and easy! When I make one of his dishes for the first time, I can't even begin to comprehend what it will taste like. In the end, the dishes have a fresh, delicate yet flavorful quality. It's hard for me to describe, I just find his dishes super satisfying. Now that I've gotten you excited, let's make Samuelsson's Flank Steak with Potato Ragu!
Here's what you will need (in clockwise order): red onion, parsley, rosemary, fingerling or yukon gold potatoes, 1 lime, 1 1/2 lb flank steak, diced tomatoes, chickpeas. Not shown: garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Interesting combination right: rosemary and lime?  potatoes and tomatoes? Actually, I guess potatoes and tomatoes go pretty well together if french fries and ketchup are any indication. But still, rosemary with stuff like limes and tomatoes? Don't be afraid, it tastes amazing! The rosemary and garlic compliment the flank steak perfectly, while the ragu's tanginess, thanks to the lime and tomatoes, contrasts the richness of the steak.

I don't have very good progress pictures so I will just jump straight to the recipe. I really think you should try this one; it's simple, savory and satisfying.

Flank Steak with Potato Ragu
minimally adapted from Samuelsson's recipe.

1.5 lbs flank steak, rubbed with salt and pepper to taste.
salt to taste
pepper to taste
3 tblspns olive oil
1 large or 2 medium garlic clove(s)
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
2 cups chopped fingerling or yukon gold potatoes
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 red onion, diced
1 14 oz can chickpeas
chopped parsley to taste
1 lime

Heat 2 tblspns olive oil in a medium sauce pan on high heat. Add potatoes and salt and pepper. Stirring frequently, cook for 3 minutes. Mix in the red onions and chickpeas, then pour in the tomatoes including the juices. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-8 minutes or until only 1/3 of the liquid remains. Continue to cook on low heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the olive oil (1 tblspn), garlic and rosemary in a pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, place the steak in the pan and cook one side for 5 minutes. Flip it and cook the other side for 5 minutes for a rare (ish) steak, if you had a super thick steak like I did, if yours is thinner it will take less time. Follow your instincts!

I'm a big fan of meat thermometers. If you are picky about your steak's done-ness, refer to this handy system:  rare=120-125 degrees, medium=140-145 degrees, well done= 160+ degrees. Note that this applies only to beef. Don't go cooking your chicken to 120 degrees, blech! Now that I've unnecessarily put the concern of food poisoning in your mind, let's continue with the recipe!

When the steak is done to your liking, put it on a cutting board, top it with chopped parsley and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. This helps the juices redistribute throughout the meat so it will all be juicy! Stir the meat juices from the pan into the potato ragu.

Plate the ragu and cut the steak across the grain at a 45 degree angle into slices. Cutting it in this specific way makes it less chewy. Place the slices on top of the ragu and squirt with lime. Don't forget the lime! 

I can think of two reasons why you might not try this dish: 1) your fear of cooking the steak too little or too much, 2) your fear of cutting the steak just right. Allow me to allay these concerns. 

I had trouble cooking the steak enough. I would cut into it and it would be too bloody. So I just threw it back in the pan and cooked it for a few more minutes. Still, it was too rare for us, so I wound up cutting the slices and then searing them individually for like, a minute. That was the perfect amount. The beef was tender and juicy but not bloody. So, I would suggest erring on the side of cooking less, because you can always cook it a bit more. But if you cook it too long, it will be dry and chewy, but honestly it will still probably taste good with that garlic and rosemary on it. Also, don't worry about taking your time to make the steak perfect. The ragu can sit for a while and be fine on low heat. It will be waiting for you when you are ready for it.

Don't worry about cutting the steak! Who cares if it looks pretty, you're going to eat it anyway! If you mangle it really bad, you can just cut it into bite sized pieces and save your diners an extra step.
We just had this super easy and satisfying dish for dinner. You'll love it! Here's how to make it.
Start boiling water for the pasta. Slice a red onion and then cut the slices in half. Cut the florets off of your broccoli. Remove the casing from the spicy Italian sausage and roll the meat into 20 meatballs (25 if you use 16 oz of sausage). Your water should be boiling about now, so pour the pasta in and cook according to the directions. Choose a pasta like penne, rigatoni, ziti or farfalle. On a cookie sheet with a rim, toss broccoli and red onion in  olive oil and salt and pepper. Place sausage on top of the vegetables. 
Place the cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven and roast for 18 minutes, tossing the mixture once after 10 minutes have passed. Reserve 1/2 cup of the water the pasta was boiled in, drain the rest, toss the pasta with the sausage and veggies and a little pasta water as needed, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and you're done! 

This is a super easy, very quick meal to throw together, especially if you buy broccoli cut into florets, and sausage already removed from its casings; I found both at Target. I used whole wheat Penne Rigate and I think the heartiness of the pasta went well with the simple, rustic ingredients. Plus it adds more fiber! 

Roasted Sausage and Broccoli Pasta
adapted from Real Simple

8 oz pasta
12 oz broccoli florets
1 red onion, sliced and slices cut in half.
enough olive oil to coat the veggies, 2-3 tblspns (that's tablespoons abbreviated)
salt and pepper to taste
12 oz Spicy Italian Sausage, casings removed and formed into 20 equally sized meatballs.
grated parmesan to taste (I used a parmesan asiago mixture.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Start boiling water for pasta. While you're waiting for the water to boil, slice onions, chop broccoli into florets (if necessary) and form meatballs out of the sausage. 
Toss broccoli and onions in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on rimmed cookie sheet.
Put meatballs atop veggie mixture.
Bake for 18 minutes. When pasta is finished, reserve about 1/2 cup water and drain the rest. Set aside. When veggies and sausage are ready, toss with pasta and pasta water if you think the pasta is too dry. 
When ready to serve, sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese.