I will be talking about food again today. Why not! Food takes so much space in our lives. We have to buy it. We have to prepare it. We have to eat it. And we have to clean the mess that is left from preparing it and eating it. Food can be a chore or can be a joy. When I apply the art and practice of mindfulness to preparing and eating food, it becomes a joy. Without mindfulness, it can be a real drag and definitely a chore.
I’m hosting a small dinner at our place on Sunday. It was my brother’s birthday this week and Monday is our Canadian Thanksgiving. My brother, my son and his partner, my husband and I will be enjoying a nice dinner together. I love having people over for dinner, but I don’t know what it is with me but it is so hard to come up with a menu plan for my dinners. It doesn’t matter whether I’m aiming for a simple dinner or a more festive and elaborate dinner. It’s frustrating! Part of it, I think, is that I really enjoy variety. I don’t like making the same thing over and over again. I like trying new things, whether it is in preparing it or eating it. The other part is that I don’t like spending a huge amount of time in food preparation and I don’t like recipes that have mile-long ingredient lists. Anyway, it is what it is! I’m learning to relax more about this.
Over a year or so ago, my son and his girlfriend came back from a long trip. For a month, they stayed with my husband and me. Julie, my son’s girlfriend, was fresh off the plane and is originally from Nice, France. It was great having her living with us and getting to know her. It could have been a bad situation since we live in a two-bedroom apartment. But it wasn’t. In fact, it was really, really nice! I cooked. She cooked. My husband cooked. My son cooked. But mostly, Julie and I cooked. It was interesting to watch her whip up things so effortlessly. For a month, we were treated to some really nice French fare. Through this experience, I decided to up my game a bit when it comes to food preparation especially when I have guests. I’m still a million miles away from being a gourmet chef but I’m not too shabby of a cook.
For this meal, I wanted to do everything from scratch. I feel it is such a nurturing and caring thing to do for my guests, especially for the guest of honour in this case. I always prefer doing things from scratch anyway. It is much healthier than processed foods. So on the menu, I have:
- Garlic Prime Rib – I have never made prime rib before. It is an expensive piece of meat usually but it was on special at almost half of the usual price. I really want this to taste great. So I even bought an instant-read thermometer with probe. I read recently that overcooking beef can toughen up the meat. So this thermometer will help me stick to the recipe. Who said, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
- Au Jus – What is beef without gravy or au jus? And it is so great on mashed potatoes or to dip fresh bread.
- Garlic mashed potatoes – No recipe for this. I’ll just wing it. I hope my brother doesn’t have a date after dinner. Garlic! Garlic! Garlic! Yum!
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts – What is Thanksgiving without Brussel sprouts? I know this isn’t a favourite for some people. I will have a few vegetable options and I believe everyone at the table does like these. I haven’t figured out how I will roast these in the over with my prime rib in there. I might have to do these ahead of time and warm them up at the last minute.
- Candied Carrots – The green of Brussel sprouts combine with the orange of carrots dresses up a plate of food beautifully. The visual can be as important as taste. At least, it is to me.
- Marinated Mushrooms – I had a recipe for this but I can’t find it. I was going to say that I will do if from memory but my memory isn’t that great. I will make it with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and herbs. I’ll be doing this today so that it sit in the fridge for a couple of days. It will allow the flavours to mingle.
- Sauerkraut – I will serve this as a condiment. Just because I have to show up my fermenting skills. Of course!
- No Knead Dutch Oven Crusty Bread – I think this menu does call for bread. Don’t you think? And there is nothing better than fresh homemade bread! In fact, I think I bought about 5 loaves of bread from the store, top, in the past 2-3 years. For a while, we did the regular bread with oil and sugar and all the kneading. My husband would knead and I would do the rest. We have now switched to no-knead bread which has no oil and sugar. We much prefer this in taste. And for course, much less work! This is thanks to Julie for introducing us to this kind of bread.
And… and… AND… the pièce de résistance. It is a birthday dinner after all!
- Extreme Chocolate Cake – This is where I’m really stretching myself. It is so much easier to buy an already made cake from the bakery counter at the nearest grocery supermarket. Yes for sure! In fact, Superstore has a really good chocolate cake. I had it once and would love to have it again. BUT, isn’t making a cake from scratch for somebody’s birthday so much better? and I mean really from scratch, not using a packaged cake starter? I don’t know but to me, this some of the ways that I can tell my brother that I love and care about him. There’s such a joy in that for me. And oh! Doesn’t that cake looks absolutely delish?!?!!
I think that will be a really good dinner! However, as I told my husband, I cannot be faulted for not giving it my best. Isn’t that the most we can do at any given time? In the end, what really matters is to be with those I love. And these are definitely my favourite people!
Happy birthday, bro! I love you!
To my Canadian neighbours, what is on your dinner menu for Thanksgiving? Care to share?