Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Chanukah Oh Chanukah: Edible Menorah

It was another successful Chanukah here in Thathouse.  We watched Chanukah movies, read Chanukah books, and sang Chanukah songs.

Every night we would light the menorah. The boys took turns with this part of the tradition.

We wore our Chanukah pajamas.

We made latkes.

And I tried out a Chanukah challah.

Even Thatdog got in on the action.

On the last night of Chanukah we headed to the Hotel Del Coronado for a "Chanukah on Ice."  

The Hotel Del calls their ice skating "Skating by the Sea" because it's right on the sand of the beach.  We make it a point to go every year, and going to celebrate Chanukah was the best way to experience it.  It was especially meaningful to me because I grew up without a lot of Jewish kids around, and my children are in a similar situation in their schools.  So to have them surrounded by other Jewish kids who celebrate the same things they do was something I wanted so badly when I was young, and something I wanted them to experience.

There was even a sand-menorah!

The Minions made a special guest appearance.

Once we got on the ice, Thatkid took off.  

On the other side of the spectrum was Thatbaby.  This was his very first time on ice!

I told Thatboy that Thatbaby has taken to ice the way Thatkid took to water - not very good, but very overconfident.  And he loved every minute.  He had already been asking to start ice skating lessons, so I promised him that after soccer was over, we would sign him up.

We did a quick run into the Hotel Del to see the Christmas tree and their menorah display.

The menorah is the key symbol of Chanukah and they come in all shapes and sizes.  Just scrolling through the pictures here you can find 5 very different menorahs! In our house, we also have wooden toy menorahs, and felt menorahs, and wooden placard menorahs.  We have a menorah surplus.  I thought I would add one more menorah to our collection, with a little help from my kids.  This menorah is fun for them to make AND eat!  

Edible Menorah
4 oz white chocolate
9 pretzel sticks
yellow sanding sugar
1 banana
  1.  Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler.
  2.  Roll the pretzel sticks in the white chocolate to coat completely.
  3.  Dip one end of the coated pretzel stick in the sanding sugar and place in the banana.
  4. When placing the pretzel sticks, press 8 of them down as far as you can into the banana, and just place the last stick in so that it remains taller than the others, to represent the shamash.  I placed mine in the middle, but placing it on either end works also!

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Desert Lights: Japanese Curry Chili

Thatboy has been complaining for months that we never get out to Palm Springs anymore.  We used to go several times a year but it has been a while.  So for his birthday, I booked us a weekend in Rancho Mirage - right between Palm Springs and Palm Desert.

We've been having a fair amount of rain lately, but the skies were clear last weekend.  And that rain, meant the mountaintops were dusted with snow.

Our hotel had its own fun surprises.  The boys took advantage of the hotel pool and water slide.  There were also tortoises and giant...desert hares?  Big big rabbits.

We didn't have any big plans for the weekend, we really just spent the time walking around and hanging out.

I love traveling during the holidays and seeing towns all "dressed up."   There were even photo ops on the street.

We missed our town's annual tree lighting, but we were in town for the Palm Springs Festival of Light parade.  We got to the parade route early enough to stake a claim on some prime curb real estate, and ate our dinner al fresco.

Once the sun set, the parade began.

Garfield was the Grand Marshall for the parade, and Thatbaby got a big kick out of waving and screaming to him.

The parade is a Festival of Light parade, so there are lights.  Lots of lights.  Even the marching bands had lights on their instruments.

And the dancers had lights on their clothes.

But the main draw were the floats and vehicles that were just covered in lights.

Like all the best parades, there were also giant balloons.

And fire engines, both old and new.

Along with other interesting vehicles wrapped in lights.

The parade ended with a visit from the big guy himself - Santa!

The kids had a great vacation.  Thatkid even asked if he could get something to remember it by.  Which is about the cutest way to ask for things there is.  And he was really serious.  We ended up in a spice store where he picked out special sugar for making cookies, and a new spice mix for his "house famous" taquitos that end up on our menu week after week.

Kid takes after me.  I also get a little giddy over spices.  Like when Raw Spice Bar sent me these two spices to try out.

I'm already quite familiar with Garam Masala, and I used it to create an Indian cashew chicken.

But the Japanese curry powder was new to me.  And intriguing.  The only recipes I could find which used it were all Japanese curry - a sweet stew style dish served over rice.  The sweet, stew-y nature seemed like it would lend itself pretty readily to a chili.  A warm, thick, fall chili with sweet apples, sirloin, and potatoes.  The addition of tomatoes and kidney bean is not the traditional way of serving Japanese curry, but made for a really nice hybrid.

Japanese Curry Chili
 1/2 lb sirloin, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp Japanese curry powder
1 qt beef stock
28 oz canned diced tomatoes, drained
1 can kidney beans
1/4 cup grated apples
1 Tbsp honey
  1.  Brown the sirloin in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Remove meat and set aside.
  2.  Place onions in the now empty dutch oven and sweat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potato and carrot.  Cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  5. Add the stock and bring to a simmer for an hour.
  6. Stir in the tomatoes and beef and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  7. Add in the beans, apples, and honey and cook for another 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

November Wrap Up: Instant Pot Turkey a la King

This may have been the fastest November known to man.   I swear it was Halloween yesterday, and this weekend it's already Chanukah!

It's funny, compared to October, November was a lot more low-key.  October we've got an event every weekend day.  December is going to be the same.  But November?  November had weekends with nothing planned at all. 

We started and ended the month with Thanksgiving celebrations.   And between the two, there were birthday parties and school breaks.  Lots of school breaks this month.

Which is fine, because it meant Thatkid and I got to go on a great adventure.  

You see, one of my friends was due with her second child mid-October.  When she first told me she was pregnant I told her I'd be there right after the baby was born.  The issue?  She lives in New York.  And when Thatkid found out I was going to New York, he begged me to take him along.  Our original plan was to go over his break in October, but that was the week she was due, and we didn't want to show up mere days after she gave birth.

So, November it was.  We took the red-eye on a Friday night and found ourselves in New York at 4:30am on a Saturday morning.   We waited around for our luggage, changed clothes in the bathroom, then caught a car out to our hotel.  It was too early to check in, but we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and grabbed a train out to Brooklyn to visit my friend and her kids.

It was Thatkid's first subway ride and he was beyond excited.

Until he fell asleep.  He slept almost the whole way to Brooklyn, and I was glad - it had been an early morning for us!  We visited with my friend who had breakfast all ready for us, and Thatkid got his first taste of New York bagels - still warm from the oven.

Then it was back on the train and into the city.  And another little nap for Thatkid.  We had thought about trying to check into the hotel, but it was getting toward lunchtime, so instead we went and grabbed a slice.  Thatkid was VERY impressed with New York pizza.

One of the things Thatkid really wanted to do while we were in New York was to see the Statue of Liberty.  I was a little worried about tying us down to a timed ferry ride, since I wasn't exactly sure what we were going to be doing, but I knew we could get a really awesome view from the Staten Island Ferry, which left every 30 minutes.  So after lunch, we headed downtown.

The views from the ferry do not disappoint.

Right next to the Staten Island Ferry is Battery Park, which houses a "new to me" attraction.  The Seaglass Carousel.

The Seaglass Carousel is, as it sounds, a carousel comprising of glass sea creatures.

This is my new favorite ride ever.  And my new "Must Do" in NYC.  The music is fantastic, the glass lights up and is beautiful, and even the movement of the ride is unlike anything I've ever experienced.

Another thing Thatkid wanted to do in New York was see some Hamilton sights.  Hamilton's homestead, The Grange, was farther north than  I was planning on taking him, but I knew that Hamilton's grave was just a hop skip and a jump from Battery Park.  So we walked up to take a look.  

We found Alexander, Philip, and Eliza Hamilton, Hercules Mulligan, and Angelica Schuyler.  We also found a tour group.  Thatkid hasn't quite figured out all social niceties, so he joined right in, listening to the stories, until I gently guided him away.

Our next stop was dinner - a surprise for Thatkid.  I'd heard word about a special theme restaurant, called Ninja, that was a big hit with kids.  And so I made us reservations without telling him.   We got in and were ushered into a dark elevator.   At the bottom, a ninja jumped out at us and pointed us down a dark hallway.  At the end, another ninja showed us to our table.  This was pretty much the tone of the restaurant.  Ninjas, ninjas, everywhere.

Thatkid was sold.  From the light up drinks,

To the tableside magicians,

To the smoking entrees.  It was a good choice for a young boy.

Even the bathrooms were over the top - covered in cherry blossoms.

Our final stop for the evening was the thing that had driven Thatkid to want to come on this trip to begin with - Broadway shows.  I told him we could see two, and let him pick from everything out there.  And his first choice was King Kong.

I have SO many thoughts on this show, and I could write an entire essay about it, but the condensed version is that it was wonderful.  So much more than I was expecting.  Christiani Pitts, who played Ann Darrow, was a phenom, and she brought so much life to the character that I honestly feel the show was about Ann, not the giant ape.   And that giant ape?  A wonder of puppetry.  The show was everything that's amazing about Broadway shows, and Thatkid couldn't have agreed more.  Despite having been up since 1:30am California time, he sat spellbound and entranced the entire show.  It currently ties for first place for his favorite musical.  

Of course, being up so early Saturday meant our Sunday got a much later start as Thatkid slept until 10am for the first time in his life.  And I happily let him.  The original plan was to ice skate in the morning, but by the time we were showered and dressed, morning was almost over.  So instead, we headed out to get burgers and milkshakes.

And then we hit up the Christmas Markets at Bryant Park, which is one of my favorite things to do in the winter in New York.  

Thatkid loves ice skating, so I thought it would be fun for him to go ice skating while we were there.  We checked out the rinks at Rockefeller and Bryant Park, and I showed him pictures of the rink in Central Park.  He decided that Bryant Park was where he wanted to skate, which made me happy, because it's my favorite rink in the city.

After we did over 20 laps in the rink (he counted), we headed uptown to the American Museum of Natural History.  The plan was to check out the gem and mineral exhibit and see the giant T-Rex skeleton.  Of course, after we got there, we found that both those exhibits were closed.  

So we settled on checking out the other giant skeletons in the museum.

In December of 2005, Thatmom, Thatdad, Thatbrother and I spent Christmas in New York City.  I still have such great memories from that trip.  It was the last trip we took just the four of us; I got married the following August.  On Christmas Eve, we ate dinner at a restaurant my dad had found - Jekyll and Hyde's.  It was a theme restaurant, with animatronic wall decorations that spoke to you, and characters who wandered around performing.  The overall atmosphere was a little spooky, a lot silly.  

In December of 2008 I took Thatboy to New York for the first time.  And I thought he would get a kick out of the restaurant, so I took him there too.

So obviously, bringing Thatkid with me to New York for his first time, we had to eat at Jekyll and Hyde's.  While he didn't know about Ninja, he was really looking forward to this meal.  We got to sit right at the foot of Frankenstein's slab.  Which was really fun during the portion of the evening when Frankenstein comes to life. 

We kept up the gothic theme of the evening with Thatkid's second show choice - Phantom of the Opera.  Actually, this was technically his first show choice.  He's been asking to see it since last spring.  Long before we had even discussed New York.

Our last day in New York was a lazy one.  Thatkid slept in again, and then we went to grab bagels to bring home.

Our last stop before grabbing a train to the airport was Grand Central Station.  He was not excited at the prospect of another train station, but once we were inside, he was pretty impressed.

It was a pretty fast and packed long weekend.  We got in Monday night and he was off to school on Tuesday morning.  Luckily he only had to suffer through 4 days of school before his Thanksgiving break started.  And just like that we're here.  See what I mean about November passing quickly?

November passes so quickly, that Thanksgiving seems like just a little blip.  I've started a tradition the past two years of making my own turkey at home, so that I can stretch it out a bit.  Because turkey is delicious and shouldn't only be enjoyed on one day!  Plus this way I have leftover turkey to make sandwiches!  If you didn't get your fill of turkey, and don't want to make a whole bird for your family, I've also found this is a great time of year for stocking up on turkey breasts, or turkey cutlets.  I use them in much the same way I use chicken, but the turkey flavor just can't be beat!

Instant Pot Turkey a la King
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 lb turkey breast or cutlet, cut in bite sized pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup frozen peas & carrots, thawed

  1. Press "Saute" on the Instant Pot and add butter.
  2. When butter is melted, add the turkey and mushrooms, cooking until mushrooms are tender, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add flour and stir until smooth.
  4. Slowly whisk in chicken broth.  Press "Off" on the Instant Pot and place the lid on.  Make sure the valve is turned to "Sealing."  Press "Manual" and adjust the time to 8 minutes at High pressure.  
  5. When the Instant Pot beeps after pressuring cooking for 8 minutes, allow it to naturally release pressure for 13 minutes.  Press "Off" on the instant pot.
  6. Add heavy cream, peas and carrots, and press "Saute" on the Instant Pot.  Cook until warmed through.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve over pasta, rice, potatoes, or even leftover stuffing!