Thanksgiving 2014


This year’s Thanksgiving dinner took place at my parent’s house, with five couples who are most important in my life: my parents; my parents-in-law; my sister and her boyfriend; me and Kevin; and Audrey and Minnie (the house dog). I didn’t want my mother to tire herself out by cooking such a large meal, so I volunteered to cook the meal for everyone this year, with my mother setting the table, my in-laws bringing the dessert and my sister bringing the wines. I was the official catering lady of the evening, with disposable tin containers and all!

Since I was transporting the food and they were destined to get cold, I decided to prepare everything the night before (except for turkey) and store them in the fridge until we were ready to hit the road. I’m glad I did this because I was able to just relax and play with the kid during the day, completely stress free!


It took me about four hours total to prepare the stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, braised red cabbage, and Greek salad. Kevin whipped up the haricot vert at the parent’s house right before all the guests arrived.

I also prepared a charcuterie plate (not pictured), with prosciutto, salami, smoked salmon, and some goat cheese, brie, and colby jack, with cucumber slices and assorted crackers. My in-laws brought giant pumpkin pie and apple pie (and whip cream!) what were heavenly.

I think everything turned out pretty decent, but I must admit that I’ve cooked a better Thanksgiving meals before.

Here’s the menu for the evening!  Each recipe makes enough to fill the 9 x 9 pans.


Roasted Turkey:

It takes about 4 hours per pound to defrost the turkey in the refrigerator, and it takes 20 minutes per pound to roast the bird in the oven. As long you know these two things, you’re good to go! We roasted two, 13 pounds turkeys this year to feed 9 people. It turned out that that was WAY too much, since 4 out of 9 were our parents with small appetites, and another one was a toddler. We only got through one, and everyone took pieces from the other one home.

Pat the turkey with paper towel to dry. Take out all the giblets out of the caucus. Rub the turkey with a mixture of finely chopped rosemary and thyme, grated garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Place the turkey on a roasting pan and roast the turkey in a 375 degree F oven for about 4 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degree F. Take out the turkey every hour and baste the skin with the mixture or the dripping from the bottom of the pan. Make sure to do this quickly to maintain the oven temperature.

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Braised Red Cabbage:

Chop 2 heads of red cabbage into half inch strips. In a very large pot, sauté the cabbage in olive oil until slightly wilted, about 10 minutes. Add sliced apples (2 medium – I used Fuji for its tang and crispy texture) and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add 2 cups apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup maple syrup, sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the cabbage and apples are completely wilted. Add dill for garnish. Serve hot or cold. Personally, I love letting this sit overnight and serve it cold.

Sauté Haricot Vert:

Boil about 2 pounds of haricot vert in a large pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes, take care not to overcook (This is optional. You can do all the cooking in the pan. Boiling them first speed up the cooking process). Drain the beans and add them to a large frying pan. Sauté them in olive oil, in medium high meat, until you reach the desired consistency. We like ours slightly crunchy so we don’t overcook it. Add ¼ cup white wine, 1 tablespoon butter, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add ¼ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup almond slices and toss. Garnish the plate with lemon wedges.

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Roasted Root Vegetables:

Chop 5 medium size unpeeled red potatoes (more, if you’re using the small ones), 2 large onions, and one head of cauliflower into bite size, and add them in a large roasting pan. Also add one bag of ready-to-eat baby carrots and 5 cloves of peeled garlic to the pan. Toss the vegetables in ¼ cup olive oil, making sure that each vegetable is well coated with oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Bake in 375 degree F oven for about one hour, or until the veggies are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

Mashed Potatoes:

Peel and cut 10 Russet potatoes and add them in a pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil in high heat and cook the potatoes until fork tender. Drain the water and return the potatoes in the same pot. Using the handheld blender, mash the potatoes until smooth (I like mine a little lumpy so I went easy with the blending). Add 1-1/2 cups milk, 10 grated garlic, finely-chopped rosemary and thyme, slat and pepper to taste, and cook in medium heat until fluffy. Do not over mix, as doing so will turn the potatoes into a paste.  Garnish with herbs.

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I used the boxed stuffing this year! I just sauted 2 large onions, 10 stalks of celery, and 5 cloves of chopped garlic in a large pan.  I added, to the vegetables, 3 boxes of cornbread stuffing mix and poured in 2 boxes of vegetable broths. I’m actually not too crazy about cornbread stuffing but Kevin insisted on his favorite so I compromised, like a good wife that I am.

Greek Salad:

Chop 10 medium size tomatoes into cubes. You don’t need to remove the seeds. Half one large English cucumber lengthwise and scrape out the seeds from the middle. Chop the cucumber into bite-size cubes. Toss the tomato and cucumber cubes in a large bowl. Add 5 cloves of grated garlic, ½ cup olive oil, crumbled feta cheese, handful of finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and toss. Cover and let the salad sit in a refrigerator overnight.

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My mother- and father-in-laws made these two lovely dishes – pumpkin salad (like potato salad but with pumpkin) and roasted Brussels sprouts! These two were probably my favorite dishes of the night!

I think everyone’s top three dishes were: Haricot vert, pumpkin salad, and braised cabbage.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Holiday Icebox Cookies


I finally realized that the best way to control my cookie intake during the holidays is by making icebox cookies. They’re genius – simply make the dough, freeze it, and bake only the amount you want, instead of making the entire batch and rushing to eat the cookies before they go stale (or whatever excuses I can come up with).

Okay, mine are not technically “icebox cookies” since the doughs were frozen in a shape of a ball instead of a log, and I rolled it out instead of slicing from the log, but you get the gist.  They keep for weeks in a refrigerator and months in a freezer and your favorite cookies are right at your fingertip, whenever you’re crazing a few pieces of delicious dessert.

I made doughs for my favorite cookies over the weekend and baked a few today for an afternoon tea with a friend.  It took only a few minutes to cut out the dough and bake them.  I love a hassle-free prep.

I can’t believe that Christmas is less than a week away! This year’s Christmas seems to creep up much quicker than usual, thanks to Thanksgiving falling on the 28th.

Sock It To Me


I love this time of the year, but I’m having a bit of trouble getting into the spirit of the holidays for some reason. Christmas is only a few weeks away and I haven’t even begun writing cards, baking cookies, or started shopping – things I usually enjoy around this time of the year.  With the exception of the Christmas wreath on the wall and a basket full of Cuties (those little delicious mandarin oranges) sitting on the coffee table, nothing in the house sings the song of the holidays! But I’m surprisingly okay with it. In fact, I’m kind of digging this low-key, stress-free December days.


One thing I’d love to do before the year ends is knit my first pair of socks! I think about hand knit socks a lot lately, and how much fun the whole process would be, if I only have the courage to begin (especially since I love knitting in the rounds with double-pointed needles). I’ve been studying patterns in sock-knitting books like how high school students study for the SAT, trying to decipher what the heck gussets are … and my mind still can’t grasp how it all works!

I don’t know why socks intimidate me so much but they do. That’s probably the reason why yarns I purchased from PurlSoho are still in the clear plastic bag that they arrived in last winter … lol

Thai Food and Fireworks

What’s so wonderful about having a fourth of July fall on a Wednesday is that you have two blissful days that feel very much like a Friday. On a flip side, the worst part about celebrating a holiday in the middle of the week is that you have, well, two Mondays. You can pretty much determine whether you’re an eternal optimist or a glass-half-empty pessimist simply by the way you viewed this week. Would anyone care to take a wild guess as to which one I am?lol

Our family usually celebrates the nation’s birthday at our parent’s house in the Valley. It’s a tradition that my father mends the grill while my mother makes some wonderful side dishes … while my sister and I, and our beaus, nibble on appetizers over a glass or two of wine. This year, however, we decided to postpone the annual BBQ a few weeks because my sister was away on business and none of us wanted to be in a food coma, knowing that we have to return to work the following day.

Kevin and I invited Shannon and Raf over for dinner at home but instead, they invited us for Thai dinner at their favorite restaurant in Pasadena — and even treated us to this wonderful dinner! We enjoyed a glass of wine at their home before heading over to President Thai for an early dinner at 6:00 p.m.

I was surprised to see that the place was lively, even at this time of the evening, with patrons who, like us, decided to skip the traditional BBQ dinner. We sat in the outside patio, near the waterfall. The outside was breezy and perfect and although we were seated toward the back, the service staff was very attentive.

The food was superb – easily one of the best Thai foods I’ve had in many years. We started out with an order of Fried Tofu, hich were crisp and flavorful, and not at all greasy.

We ordered my favorite Thai dish, Yum Woon Sen, or glass noodle with shrimp, ground chicken, onion, and cilantro. Many places put too much fish sauce in the dressing and make it way too pungent, but this one was just right!

Pad Thai was loaded with meat and vegetable. I don’t usually order Pad Thai so it was a pleasant change to my usual Thai repertoire.  Very delicious.

I enjoyed the Fried Rice very much, especially the dried pork on top.

BBQ Chicken was tender and flavorful. Although I’m not much of a chicken person, even I had to have some kind of barbeque for the Independence Day!biggrin

After dinner, we headed over to Kevin’s friend’s house for a fireworks viewing party. This breathtaking properly sits on top of the Pasadena hill, overlooking the Rose Bowl. Kevin, Shannon, Raf, and I, along with 100-plus of their friends sat on the front yard grass and watched the beautiful fireworks, from the best seats in town.  (I found someone’s recording of the fireworks here!  This person probably recorded it from inside the Rose Bowl, but this is exactly how we saw it too!)

It was simply an amazing, amazing night. Happy birthday, America! And thank you, Shannon and Raf, for such a wonderful dinner.

Barking Over Fantastic Christmas!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with your love ones! I spent the Christmas Eve at my parent’s house, celebrating the holiday over a pot of bubbling cheese with my mother, my father, my sister, and my boyfriend. Yep, we had a fondue party! 🙂

It was interesting that my mother decided to do fondue instead of the traditional ham, beef, or other meaty dishes that we’ve been enjoying for the past several years, especially because we have never had fondue together in the past (this was actually my first time, ever), but the party was a hit. Yay!  She boiled asparagus, Brussels sprouts, baby potatoes, and broccolis, and sliced up chunks of baguettes and sourdough breads, and we all used the metal barbecue skewers to dip the cheese sauce made with Emmenthal and Grueyer cheeses. She was smart to pick up the packaged fondue mix from Trader Joe’s so we didn’t have to be bothered with shredding the cheese blocks. We ended up adding about half a cup of white wine to thin the cheese sauce out toward the end, but it was a hassle free way to enjoy the lovely Swiss dish without the mess! We ended the meal with chocolate fondue and dipped fresh strawberries, bananas, and apples to the velvety chocolate sauce! It was an amazing Christmas dinner!

I had the chance to enjoy the traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, ham, and all the other delicious sides the following day, when I was invited to my boyfriend’s family Christmas party! This was my first Christmas that I didn’t either cook or host in years, and while I missed entertaining, I actually enjoyed a very relaxing day, wrapping gifts and eating blocks and blocks of William Sonoma’s famous chocolate barks that I had ordered online.

Speaking of the bark, have you had one before? OMG, the peppermint bark from Billy (that’s what my boyfriend and I call William Sonoma … got the idea from my friend Gabriel) is what holiday is all about. It has layers of thin but decadent milk and creamy white chocolates, topped with peppermint candy bits.  When you bite into each block, you marry the two chocolates together in your mouth, with a little crunch from the candy. It’s so heavenly. I’ve given them as gifts in the past but never tried it myself, and I’m kicking myself that I’ve deprived myself of this sweet deliciousness for all my life!

Anyway, time for me to clean up the house. Since most of my Christmas shopping was done online, I have mountains of boxes that I have to get rid of / recycle. I wonder why people still shop brick-and-mortar style. I can never go back to anything other than online shopping now … seriously.