Brunch Me: Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Frittata

I know that Mother’s Day was more than a week ago. However, I hope that this is more of a testament to how much what I am going to write about is so freaking delicious that I’m still thinking about it 12 days later and less of incriminating evidence as to how long it took me to actually get my act together to write this.  Benefit of a doubt here, my friends.

So what the hell am I talking about? Well, my lovelies: THIS.

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Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata!

Many of you know that I live too far from my family to visit for a typical weekend, what with a 7-hour drive either way and no financially feasible flight options between San Luis Obispo and Redding. Seriously, check it out. It’s absurd. What this means around this particular time of year is that I miss my mom terribly on Mother’s Day. I call her multiple times, I send her plenty of cards, and this year I ordered her a curated album of our wedding pictures. I’m sure she feels the love, but something is still missing here on the lonely mom-less Central Coast. So what’s a daughter to do? Well, that’s where the extreme kindness that is my beautiful friend Danae comes in.

Danae grew up in the area, so she is lucky to have her own family close and local. Her husband Matt’s parents live a few hours south, and a quick drive up the coast is all it takes. Knowing that my family is ridiculously far away and that Bill was going to be at work, and being the amazing event/wedding planner that she is, Danae extended an invitation to join her family’s Mother’s Day celebration at their home. The theme: Brunch for dinner!

The only stipulation (which let’s be real, if I hadn’t complied I still would have been let through the door) was that I make something to contribute. Wanting to put my new cast iron baby – I mean, skillet – to good use, I immediately blurted the word “frittata” so loudly that I would have elicited concerned stares had I been in public. Being gluten-free myself (and note: we’re trying to work certain types of dairy back into my diet, including cheeses and goat milk products), it was easy to tailor the project to the other dietary restrictions and preferences present, which let me tell you, was quite a few. I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with eggs, kale, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, so I threw them all together and headed over to the Pearce’s house for an evening of gourmet brunch food, champagne, and the love of family – even if it wasn’t “my own”.

We started off by gathering in the kitchen, which as per usual was styled to the nines for the occasion. Danae had brought home roses from her event the night before and laid out the most beautiful table setting in soft feminine pinks and whites.

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No brunch would be complete without champagne, of course. But to be honest, it seems that no matter where I go I find the stuff, since my general affinity for bubbly has transformed from a preference to a lifestyle. Good thing Danae and I are extensions of one another – or soul mates, as I prefer to call us – so she was ready, bottle already chilling and incorporated into the decor.

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A special occasion calls for unique touches, so leave it to Danae to offer a splash of St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur in our glasses to class the champagne up further, it that’s even possible. Magnifique.

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I have mentioned before that Danae and her husband own their own businesses with Danae Grace Events and Old San Luis BBQ Co., respectively. So while Danae had set the scene, Matt was chopping, whipping, and sauteing up a storm in the kitchen. In addition to my frittata, he created a custom crepe bar, which included ordering up Bacon + Spinach + Feta, Caprese, Chicken Curry, or Sweet Nutella and Strawberry crepes. And go figure, he preceded to pour the batter, fill her up, and fold it right before your eyes before plopping it directly on the plate in your hand. Add into the mix roasted red potatoes and homemade ebelskivers, and we found our eyes and our stomachs in a bewildered state of pure bliss.

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So while I totally and completely wish I was capable of assembling such a fete on my own, I most definitely cannot. But I can tell you that I already have plans to recreate my frittata this weekend so that we may devour the whole thing ourselves in the Halter household. You’ll find my recipe below!

Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato & Goat Cheese Frittata

Ingredients

  • 2 cups torn fresh kale
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 eggs
  • Few dashes salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup drained oil-packed julienned sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese (such as Trader Joe’s)

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet (or nonstick, oven-safe skillet) over medium heat. Add kale and onion and cook about 10 minutes until onion is tender, stirring frequently.20140523-093923.jpg
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, salt, and pepper in medium bowl.20140523-093903.jpg
  4. Pour over cooked  kale and onion  mixture in skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low heat and cook.
  5.  While egg mixture begins to set, use a spatula to run around the edge of the skillet, tilting the pan so the uncooked egg mixture flows underneath. Continue lifting edge until egg is almost set but still shiny and moist.
  6. Sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese over eggs.
  7. Broil in oven close to heat until eggs are set (about 1 to 2 minutes).
  8. Cut into wedges to serve.Voilà! Free-tah-tah.

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So there you have it! An easy-peasy frittata that can be whipped up in minutes BUT will bring in the accolades of hours spent in the kitchen. Believe me, I know… I could not for the life of me convince the entire party that my contribution didn’t take much no matter how hard I tried, and I’ve been told on more that one occasion that I could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves – er, something – sooooo….

Anyway, this was a great choice to bring to a party…

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… and it’s just as good for a quiet breakfast at home the next day. Happy frittata-ing!

Weekending: Boots and Ballgowns

Do you ever meet people and have the profound feeling of “these are my people”?

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This is Katie. She is my people. And her people are my people.

I was lucky enough to get a whole lot of this last weekend. My beautiful and amazing friend Katie is getting married at the end of May, and I was so excited to attend her bachelorette party. Now, Katie is not your typical lady, and this was not your typical bachelorette weekend. In fact, it was a huge but welcome contrast to mine last year in Vegas, which was chock full of the outfits, the decor, and of course, the shenanigans that we come to expect from this type of gathering. Katie knew from that start this wasn’t exactly what she would call her ideal, so last weekend was a little different. First of all, the events of the weekend took place in Placerville, CA. If you have never been to Placerville, picture a small California gold-mining town of about 10,000 people 45 miles northeast of Sacramento. Middle. Of. Nowhere. The buildings are charming and a river runs through it – the only other time I’ve been there was for an ex-boyfriend’s family reunion to white water raft. The second amazingly “Katie” logistical detail of the weekend was that our accommodations were in the form of a rented-out updated Victorian house, complete with parlor and sitting porch, staircases with landings, and original crown molding and wainscoting, among other interior details. Katie and I shared the master bed and bath, but there was plenty of room for the 10 other amazing women on the trip.

Upon arriving at our humble abode on Friday night after a 340-mile drive from San Luis Obispo, I quickly learned I was the first “non-family” person there. I write “non-family” in quotation marks because I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of that thought. I first met Katie when I was 3 years old, and after attending pre-school, kindergarten through 8th grade, high school, AND college with her, it would be an understatement to say we grew up together. We made it through heartbreaks and prom and finals together. She was my first solid memory of a best friend, and her family is my family. Her mom helped me through my first sleepover. I looked up to her older sisters Becky and Julie as if they were my sisters. Her brothers were always at my house. And on many occasion we stifled late night giggles while her dad snored in the next room. She stood next to me as Bill and I said our vows last summer, and I am so excited to be a bridesmaid in her upcoming nuptials. All of this goes to say that arriving at this unfamiliar Victorian and hugging Katie and her mom Annie felt so much like coming home.

I know they felt it too because I was IMMEDIATELY roped into the Pinterest-worthy projects of Becky’s incredible mind. I put my luggage down and got to work helping to pin, sew, and hot glue handmade hair pieces constructed of felt, feathers, buttons, and random bits of tulle. We had a big day the next day, and you simply cannot face such an affair without the proper headpiece. A few more fabulous ladies rolled in around midnight, and I worked until my allergies sent me to my big fluffy resting place and I said my goodnights.

The next morning I awoke to laughter on the floor below. Padding softly down the stairs, I entered the living room to find Becky surrounded by yarn and cheerfully crocheting wine slings at 8:30 a.m. Yes, you read that right. WINE SLINGS. Sheer genius. The woman was making everyone their own apparatus to wear around our necks that completely cradled a wine glass, either full or empty, freeing both hands for any and all mischief we may encounter for the day. Attached to each was a nametag bearing the title of a flower. The plan for the weekend was to travel around the county attending a wine festival, and since Becky was unsure of the guest list at the time she purchased the tickets, she registered everyone as flora. Katie designated me Gardenia, and a new persona was born. And so we spent the rest of the morning fueling up on breakfast and Propel, primping, and dressing ourselves in – you guessed it – boots and ballgowns.

The Tales from the Cellar Wine Passport Weekend was about to go down, and our short bus was waiting for us.

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The beautiful bride in her $26 thrift store wedding dress, so proud of her chariot for the day.

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Arriving at our first stop of Nello Olivo, we knew the day was going to be a good one. A winery housed in a huge Victorian, servers dressed in top hats, unlimited wine, and appetizers such as steamed clams and gourmet meatballs… What did we just walk into?! Heaven is the answer, my friends. Heaven.

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It wasn’t long before the wigs started coming out (thanks to Annie’s fabulously spirited friend Francie, in the red wig… for now), yet we still managed to look this classy by the second winery.

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At this point, by winery three or four, we were still focused enough to notice and appreciate the beauty of being out in the country. This is Jennie, modeling the gorgeousness that was the landscaping at a Don Quixote-themed winery. Not pictured: the choreographed dance we performed in the courtyard to the tune of Pitbull and Ke$ha’s “Timber” just minutes after this was taken.

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As you can see, the wigs became much more of a “thing” as the day went on. That is a group of ladies who are ENJOYING themselves.

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And blonde became a new thing, too. You will notice, however, that my champagne bottle is unopened… My allergies were so terrible that I decided to ease off on the partaking throughout the day. The didn’t stop me, however, from fully embracing the blonde.

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Things, of course, got a little rowdier as the day wore on, but I just love this picture because you can just feel the vibe of the day. No pressure, no drama, just pure amazingness. It really was a celebration of Katie, and we were all so grateful to be involved.

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Look at that face. Just look at it. It is amazing to see someone you love so much THIS happy.

And so the day ended with pizza from a small local pizzeria that had only seven types of pizza on their menu. (If you’re wondering what the GFDF like me did, I ate a bowl of cold marinara sauce. No joke. They ONLY had pizza.) An older couple we didn’t know joined us on the street and bought the whole party several bottles of wine.We wandered into a dive bar with a few lonely patrons silently nursing their drinks, saw the sad small town Saturday night state the place was in, and immediately cranked the jukebox. Dance party ensued. Katie acquired a pink unicorn stick horse at some point, which we named Cornelius. We cut cake at the house. And then we all changed into our cozies and cuddled up to watch Katie open presents. One of those presents was Frozen, which we popped into the DVD player immediately until we all eventually headed off to bed.

So that was it. By the time we all packed up on Sunday after eating breakfast and watching Frozen – yes – again, the general consensus was that it will be hard to wait another 5 or 6 weeks until the wedding because that’s how long it will be until this family comes back together.

And until the wigs come back out. Francie pulled me aside as I said my fare-thee-wells, and let’s just say that Gardenia may be making another appearance in the near, near, possibly inappropriate future. But until then…

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What happens in Placerville, stays in Placerville.

The New Tastes of Home

In this post a few weeks ago, I wrote about all the things I would miss after starting my new gluten-free dairy-free lifestyle. At the top of this list were the comforts of home: my dad’s waffles, my mom’s quiche, my step-mom’s french toast, and my family’s infamous Christmas butter cookies. With a trip to Redding planned the weekend right before my birthday, this was about to be put to the test.

Not only was I still trying to figure out what the heck to eat, I was nervous about my family trying to tackle the task, especially with the pressure of birthday dinners. Both my dad and my mom chose to cook for me instead of going out, which is exactly what I prefer when heading home to the parent’s houses. However, I felt a little helpless since I couldn’t send them recipes or tell them my new favorites simply because I didn’t have any yet. I anticipated some fumbling on their part and some sadness on mine at missing out on my staple requests.

Was I ever surprised.

I didn’t have the waffles, the quiche, or the french toast, but what I had was even better.

Saturday morning started off with shuffling to the car at my dad’s insistence that we head to the local health food store. Now, a Redding health food store is not exactly the shiny gorgeous sister to the likes of Whole Foods or San Luis Obispo’s local New Frontiers. It’s more like the stray dog wandering the back alley behind the Whole Foods beaming exterior. With that said, his enthusiasm was contagious as we wandered down the short aisles, and seeing my dad reading labels and asking questions was so endearing. We ended going home with a few basics, but a stronger connection.

Little did I know he was going to sneak back to the store while I was at a friend’s bridal shower that afternoon OR that I would come home to a spice cake with vanilla frosting, homemade and sans dairy and gluten.

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He made the whole thing from scratch himself. I love the Proud Papa look on his face in that picture.

Another conversation my dad and I had before I ventured home was how much I was going to miss his waffles. And of course he did everything in his power to make sure I had some while I was home. They looked similar yet tasted different, but that was alright with me.

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Next on the birthday agenda was my mom’s house for a Sunday dinner celebration. Mama had dropped hints that she had found a recipe she wanted to try, which was really exciting because she has always let it be known that she does NOT enjoy cooking. She wouldn’t tell me what it was though, so I was pleasantly surprised that she found a recipe for a Gluten-Free Tamale Bake from Cooking with Trader Joe’s. Mexican food is especially exciting these days, since I haven’t had anything like it since “That Day At The Nutritionist”. However, the fact that she went to four different stores to find the ingredients to make it dairy-free as well and that we got to cook it together made it all the more special. So special, in fact, that I cared not one single bit while my brother complained about Daiya Cheddar Flavored Shreds and Tofutti’s Better Than Sour Cream Sour Cream.

To top it all off, my amazing little mama gave me an arsenal of cookbooks with which to arm myself.

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I made her sign the page of the recipe she made for me, just for memories and safe-keeping.

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So after all that, it turns out that I will in fact miss out on the comforts of home and some of my best-tasting childhood memories. But what has taken and will take their place in the future is most likely even better. Because while I didn’t get the breakfasts and dinners of the old days, we (non-dairy cheeseball alert) created new memories, and I got the feeling of being more loved and supported than I can ever remember being in my Eat-Whatever-The-Hell-I-Want Glory Days.

And that, of course, tastes better going down than any cheesy, carb-y forbidden monstrosity you could put in front of me.

Playlisting: The Wedding Soundtrack

Every year on Valentine’s Day, I reach back into my late ’80s/early ’90s roots and put together Bill’s present: a mix CD. Now, I know you may be rolling your eyes at my reference, because if I were TRULY throwing it back I would have said “mix tape”. Let’s be honest, that’s just not realistic anymore. Unfortunately.

I mean, how amazing would it be to go back to the days of sitting by the stereo in your bedroom, waiting on edge for the next song to play? If it was a good one and you had lightning-fast reflexes, you could pound the button with the little red dot and keep that baby (minus a few introductory seconds, am I right?) for the rest of your life. Well, until tape players are no longer standard I suppose.

The first year I made Bill a CD was 2012, and I left it on his doorstep and ran away like a giddy teenager. The next year, I gave it to him in person when I showed up at his apartment after a grad school night class, as ordered, to find a candle-lit home-prepared (don’t care that it all came frozen… he put a lot of thought into that) meal, complete with the most adorable surprise for dessert. Let me tell you, that man sure knows how to steal a girl’s heart, toasting Chocolate Chip Eggo’s and filling them with vanilla ice cream like that. Romance is a frozen waffle ice cream sandwich, if you ask me.

Those CDs consisted of songs meeting one criteria: they had reminded me of him.

This year, the playlist was a lot easier to put together, but a thousand times more meaningful. This year, I got to relive our wedding by creating our soundtrack, something I had been eager to do since July 20th.

Music is such a part of my idea of a wedding, and I spent months and months researching for the right tracks. If it didn’t feel right, it didn’t make the cut. Plain and simple. Although I preferred to have a wedding with unique details, and, what with Pinterest, now ideas are stolen with the click if a “Pin” button, when it came to the music I didn’t care how many times that sucker had been played. It just had to feel like us. Music evokes such a feeling in me, and it can either set the vibe for the night or it can ruin the party. Don’t believe me yet? I bet the top two complaints you’ve had at any wedding, in no particular order, were: food and deejay. Correct?

So I wasn’t so obsessed that I dictated every song throughout the night, but Bill and I did make sure our deejay came with incredible testimonies, a reputation of trustworthiness, and the inspiration of our confidence. Kramer Events was such a great pick, and we signed pretty quickly. But a wedding has a lot of important moments, and those were the ones I wanted to get just right. No one else could pick those, since the most important thing a wedding can reflect is the uniqueness and personalities of the each of the lucky souls pledging undying love to one another.

So for anyone interested in one of the sources of greatest pride in our wedding, and one of the things that went very very right, here is the soundtrack of our wedding day, in order:

1. The Processional: “Marry Me” by Train

I know, I know, this song has gained a lot of popularity recently. The processional song was actually the last song we picked, but once I made the choice to stop resisting it, “Marry Me” made our list.

Processional

2. The Walk Down the Aisle: “I Saw A Light” by The Band Perry

I agonized over which song should play as I entered. AGONIZED. But then I downloaded The Band Perry’s new album the day it dropped – April 2nd, just three months before the big day – and one measure into the song, I already knew this was the one I would walk down the aisle to. It hit me immediately that the music to this song embodied the very essence I wanted our day to have, and as I listened, the words spoke directly to our own story of how we met. Such an important moment needed an equally important accompaniment, and to this day, this is my favorite song I have EVER heard.

Walking Down the Aisle

3. Mid-Ceremony Performance: “The Light” by Sara Barrielles

Our officiant Jessie and her father Kevin are both considered family to Bill (and me!) after living across the street from the Halters for years during childhood. Both are talented musicians and frequently sing at weddings, so it was only natural that we cross our fingers in hopes that they would sing for us during our ceremony. “The Light” has always been one of the most romantic songs in my eyes, and we had to include it in the most romantic moments of our lives together.

Jessie Singing

4. The First Kiss and Recessional: “Brighter Than The Sun” by Colbie Caillat

We got married! That’s super exciting! So the first thing we wanted to hear after that was an upbeat but meaningful song to both celebrate what we just did AND set the tone for the party to come. With our California affair and wish for pure uninhibited happiness, this was another agony-inducing choice that became clear upon hearing the words to this amazing song.

First Kiss

Recessional

5. Wedding Party’s Reception Entrance: “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project

Bill had one request for our wedding. Ever the sports enthusiast, he wanted our wedding party to enter like the starting lineup, and he wanted to do the announcing. So “Sirius” was a must, and he paced inside barn out of sight with a microphone and an NBA-worthy script as each of our bridesmaid and groomsmen pairs danced their ways into the reception.

Wedding Party Entrance

6. The Presentation of Mr. and Mrs. William Halter: “Love on Top” by Beyoncé

Yoncé herself is a must at any wedding, and “Love on Top” was the perfect upbeat-yet-romantic song to come out to for the first time as husband and wife. Plus, I just love me some Queen Bey.

Presentation of Mr and Mrs

Tunnel

7. Our First Dance: “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

This song had long been “our song”. So not only was it a great one for our first dance, but it is forever a reminder of the promise we made to each other on that day, whether the current one is going great or not so well.

First Dance

8. Father-Daughter Dance: “The Best Day” by Taylor Swift

My dad has often been a rock for me during difficult times, whether those were breakups, rejections, or just plain bad days. He is the solid voice on the other end of the phone and the drop-everything-and-drive-seven-hours presence on my doorstep. For years, this song made me cry when I thought of him, and now even more so with such an irreplaceable memory attached to it.

Father Daughter Dance

9. How We Got The Party Started: “Wobble” by V.I.C.

Disclaimer: Transitioning from the Father-Daughter Dance straight into “Wobble” was risky. The deejay even responded with an “Are you sure?” But how incredibly worth it was it to see my dad leading the Wedding Wobble?!? SO worth it. We started the show, soon to be joined by Bill, our previously trained bridesmaids, and finally, with much coercion (physical dragging, embarrassment, and otherwise), our guests, who were game to learn the moves as we went. Best part? Everyone was already on the dance floor as we got the rest of the night underway.

Wobble

Wobble Recruitment

10. The Cake-Cutting: “Tie It Up” by Kelly Clarkson

This song was new, it was (and still is) so fun, and we didn’t want to make a spectacle out of the cake-cutting and ruin the good vibes that were flowing already. Keep dancing everybody, and here’s some sugar to fuel the next two hours.

Cake Cutting

11. The Bouquet Toss: “Show Me How You Burlesque” by Christina Aguilera

After getting sexier than all get out to this song in one of my first Zumba classes, the idea for a ladies-only flashmob was born. My friend Ashleigh choreographed a dance for all my bridesmaids to learn, and a plan was hatched for them to strategically plant themselves around the venue. Bill was kept unaware of the plan, as this was as much a surprise for him as it was entertainment for our guests. As the song began, I made my way to the center of the floor, and my girls came out of the woodwork at a pre-determined time to the surprise of our unsuspecting audience. We did our routine incredibly well considering they had all learned it the night before, and after the first chorus, they took their charge of homing in on the single women in the crowd and dragging them out. Execution = spotless.

Bouquet Toss

Bouquet Toss 2

12. The Garter Toss: “Everybody” by the Backstreet Boys

While I was busy planning my surprise for Bill, he was busy planning one for me as well. Having told me that the garter toss was going to happen to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger”, I relinquished control over this detail although I was unimpressed by his choice. But my jaw hit the floor when Bill grabbed the mic and karaoked his way farther into my heart with a rendition of “Everybody”, knowing my weakness for the aforementioned boy band would knock my socks off. True story. This happened. It was spectacular. (Especially when he proceeded to give play-by-play through the same microphone of what was going on under my dress while removing the garter.)

Garter

13. A Must Play: “I Love It” by Icona Pop

We sang this song constantly. We went crazy on the dance floor. So did everyone else.

I Love It

14. The Last Song: “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding

The last song of the night was of incredible importance to me. I wanted something upbeat, unable to resist, and too good to be true. I essentially wanted the audio version of the stuff memories are made of. The last moments of the night were surreal, surrounded by our closest friends and family members and their most loved ones.

Anything Could Happen

So there you have it: the soundtrack to our wedding. Please feel free to snag ideas if they fit your idea of perfection, because we had ours, and you should too.

Thanksgiving Domination

Soooooo Thanksgiving happened.

As you already know, I was pretty nervous about cooking my first big meal. So when I pulled something incredibly intelligent like slice my left ring finger open while trying to cut a bagel with a brand new extremely sharp steak knife the night before Thanksgiving, I not only worried about the outcome of the meal, but now about the safety of everyone in a 1-mile radius as well. I thought I needed stitches, but decided to let Bill quell my anxiety for once in my life. I cried for a while, put pressure on it with a paper towel until it finally stopped bleeding, let Billy doctored me up, and then moped for a decidedly finite period of time, absolutely sure my efforts the next day would be futile. I was done for. The turkey had already won, and it was strictly my doing. Not a great start.

In the morning, however, it was ON. I was determined to throw down. And despite the misstep the night before, here is how THAT turned out.

BOOM.

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You GUYS. I did that.

I don’t have the faintest idea how it happened, but it was awesome. Getting started was tough since I get easily overwhelmed by too many things going on at once and couldn’t quite figure out where to begin. So I started by making breakfast, sitting down with a magazine, and taking a deep metaphorical breath. I highly recommend this first step to everyone. Take notes.

After that, things went smoothly for the most part. Well, besides not having any idea how to stick my hand in a turkey to pull out the neck and giblets. Or loosen the skin from the flesh. Or tuck the wings under. You know.

There was only one moment that I started to panic, thinking I bit off more than I could chew, and that, of course, was during the hour before dinner is served – that magic chaos period my mom has always talked about as if it were a swarm of locusts descending over both the kitchen and whoever pulled the short straw when deciding who was cooking dinner. But my friends, thank goodness for Bill. He has proven me wrong yet again, this time by being the best sous chef a lady could ask for. And for the second time in less than 24 hours, he managed to calm the wife-beast just as things started to spiral out of anxiety-ridden control – all while trimming the green beans, pureeing the gravy, and carving that god-forsaken bird.

As there is no way that I could give you what Bill would call the “play-by-play” of the day, because 1) I don’t think you need a tedious detailed run-down on this fine Tuesday, and 2) I most likely blacked out multiple times throughout the day just to get through it, here are the highlights:

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Those are fresh cranberries. I mean, really fresh. Like, so fresh I they needed to be rinsed and drained and smashed and blended.

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It took me a few minutes to figure out the pan… Yeah, just the pan.

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That was grosser than I anticipated, but…

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DOMINATION! I’ve been getting the “What’s in the bottom of the pan?” question a lot, and the answer would be halved pears and onions to flavor the drippings to make the gravy. (Find the recipe from Cooking Light here: Oil-Basted Parmesan Turkey with Walnut Gravy)

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Now that’s a man. You carve that turkey, Billy. (We all grew up a little that day.)

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Butternut-Bacon Stuffing from Cooking Light: Delish, especially as leftovers reheated in the toaster oven!

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Green Beans with Sherried Mushroom Sauce from Cooking Light… We cheated and put the fried onions on top anyway. Don’t tell my arteries.

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Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes from, you guessed it, Cooking Light! Made with real maple syrup and vanilla, these puppies are GOOD. Bill’s self-declared favorite.

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A relatively clean production area, obviously post-chaos hour.

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And homemade – 100% from scratch – Cranberry-Orange Relish. This was surprisingly easy, but for some reason telling everyone you made your cranberries from scratch is really impressive. Probably because they are so easy to buy at the market would be my guess! Anyway, this is an awesome recipe. It includes a whole orange and the zest of an orange rind, so the tangy citrus kick gives it a little something extra. It’s so great to eat straight out of the fridge as well, and it feels like a grown-up version of applesauce. Which is, obviously, rad.

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And here it is… the finished product! (In true do(hot mess)tication, notice the one little drip of sweet potatoes chilling on the edge of the plate. Polished presentations are for cowards.

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Happy husband with turkey hands!

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Okay, so I’m PROUD. I’ve never felt like a chef before, and until Thanksgiving, I never felt like cooking would be something I would ever be good at. There’s hope, everyone! There is HOPE.

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One more presentation pic for good measure.

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So this is how I celebrated. A much, MUCH deserved glass of wine.

All in all, I feel like the day was successful, and the biggest success was probably that despite the difficult decision to be away from my family of origin for the first time on such an important day, there were many more “best parts” than I expected. Bill and I had our first major holiday together. We got to take on the challenge in the kitchen and conquer that turkey. We proved that we are a great team, even when we have no idea what we are doing. We sat down in our sweats, fully intending to change into nice clothes and do our hair but deciding we were just too exhausted, and we ate a huge meal, just the two of us, and it was AMAZING. And lastly, I thoroughly passed out on the couch, fat and very happy, at around 7:30 p.m. in the middle of one of my favorite shows like an old grandma. It was SO worth it.

I do, however, have one main piece of advice for you when embarking on your first Thanksgiving meal. Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – slice your hand open the night before. Raw turkey juice is not pleasant to begin with, and it is even less so when it seeps into unnecessary wounds.

Just a thought.

Turkey vs. Fem-Beast

You guys.

LOOK WHAT I BOUGHT LAST NIGHT.

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WHAT?!?

So who would of thought that I would get so worked up standing by myself in front of the massive wall of roasting pans in Bed Bath & Beyond? As it turn outs, cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner is apparently a really big deal to me.

Weird.

Because of Bill’s work schedule, we won’t have the opportunity to travel and see family for Thanksgiving this year. Even though it will just be Bill and I in our quiet little starter home on Thursday, I feel like that makes it that much more important to celebrate the day. What I didn’t expect was that making my first turkey would feel like a huge responsibility. I’m determined to make it from scratch because if I’m going to take on this rite of passage into wifehood, I’m going to go big and stare it down in the face like the fem-beast I am. Turkey, hear me roar.

But really, I’m pretty nervous. I have been putting a lot of thought into our menu, scouring over websites and blogs and magazines and Pinterest, trying to pick out the perfect combination of healthy and traditional. Oh, and when I say “putting a lot of thought into”, what I’m really trying to say is something more akin to “obsessing”, or perhaps “researching thoroughly in a state of suppressed-and-consequently-simmering panic”. Need proof?

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The two of us are going to be eating Thanksgiving dinner all the way to Christmas.

I think all this is coming from watching the pre-holiday planning and preparation, as well as the intensive day-of labor, that my mom and grandmother took so seriously growing up. One year I helped, taking on all the gross de-necking and what have you that my mom was clearly disgusted by, but other than that my turkey roasting skills are as underdeveloped as one’s turkey roasting skills can be. However, if there was ever a time to be grateful for the first year of marriage – you know, when the honeymoon isn’t over and the adoring husband pretends he doesn’t mind a disaster of a house and enthusiastically chews tough/burnt/undercooked dinners – well friends, this would be it.

So in conclusion, here goes nothing! That Caphalon box you see above is here in my kitchen as a glaring reminder of the character-building to come in the very near future. And let me say that this year, along with my family, friends, and a wonderful life, what I am thankful for is this blog. Because if this all goes to hell, as is entirely possible, at I’ll have some material to write about and you’ll have a good laugh at my expense.

Here’s to solidifying my status as a domestic hot mess, and I think we can all agree that there aren’t too many feelings as grand as validation!

xo

Halterween: A Tradition is Born

Here’s a piece of irony for you.

One of the things I’ve been so looking forward to in marriage – and I mean really excited about – is the establishment of new traditions. Why is that ironic? Well, I suppose it’s because the very definition of tradition (according to Dictionary.com) is “a continuing practice” or “a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting”. So basically I’ve been excited about doing the same thing over and over again for an undetermined amount of time. Coming from a generation obsessed with a constant stream of shiny new things and keeping up with the (fill in the blank here: times, trends, outrageous/materialistic/overly dramatized reality TV family that I’m secretly infatuated with… don’t hate me for my guilty pleasures), you would think traditions would be the last thing that would get me going. But maybe that is one of the reasons why I AM so fired up about new ideas becoming Halter family mainstays. Traditions offer a warm, home-y sense of security in an age where constant bombardment with pressure and expectations is commonplace. If you think about it, traditions are great conversation starters and so fun to talk about because they are always so… weird. Quirky. Ridiculous. In fact, they are often the only excuse we have to legitimize being weird, quirky, and ridiculous. I mean, seriously, how else would I get away with some of the things I wrote about in a previous post, like eating cookies for breakfast on a certain magical holiday? Traditionally, calories don’t count on Christmas morning. And you can’t argue with that – it’s FAMILY TRADITION.

It seems to me that in order for something to become tradition, it has to have happened twice. After the first time, we can intend for something to become tradition, but that’s all talk until it actually does. That is why Halloween was so highly anticipated for me this year. Last Halloween, my roommate and I co-hosted a dinner party that consisted of a small guest list, butternut squash lasagna, costumes, and lots of candy. We were over the downtown scene with the 21+ crazies shedding themselves of any and all sensibilities or societal rules (plus, getting a ride home on this particular night is a big, fat pain…), and we decided to bring the party to us. It went well, and a bar was set. Since that night, however, I have referred to it in my brain as the “First Annual”, but I’ve been unable to put my money where my mouth is until this year’s fete.

SO I’m proud to introduce to you snapshots from “The 2nd Annual Supper Bloody Supper at the Halterween Mansion”!

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First up, we took down every ounce of normality in terms of decor and created an ambiance and vibe that was sure to please. (Those apple slices you see in that picture? Caramel apply vodka jello shots. Deadly.)

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My gorgeous co-host to the left (Cher from Clueless) and some lifesaving help to the right (Mean Girls!).

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On the menu, slow-cooker vegetarian chili with optional pulled pork on the side, corn bread, and a sweet potato bar complete with all the fixin’s you could ever dream of.

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An endless spread of booze and sugar guarantee a good time.

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Next ingredient: amazing friends bringing the cheer.

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Mixing and mingling…

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The hubby as Minnesota Vikings embarrassment Josh Freeman and the pup as the penguin to my polar bear.

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New friends were made when Jim Harbaugh joined the festivities.

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And NFL coach royalty Harbaugh and Ditka put Freeman in his place.

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Again with Caramel Apples… Deliciously dangerous.

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An unplanned Arctic (and okay, OKAY, Antarctic) takeover.

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And finally, the family to make it a family tradition.

The bar has been set high, my lovelies. I’m already jazzed for the 3rd Annual Supper Bloody Supper at the Halterween Mansion, and all the “Annuals” come, in all their weird, quirky, ridiculous glory.