Christmas Fettuccine

Woof. This past month has FLOWN by. I absolutely meant to share details from my Friendsgiving celebration and my favorite recipe for turkey and wild rice soup to use up your leftovers, but time got away from me. I’ve been super busy between both jobs and preparing for Christmas, I’ve been sick for a couple of weeks and by the time I was finally able to even think about writing up those posts….

It was last week. So, onward.

It’s literally three days before Christmas and I still have a ton to do, but I wanted to share this recipe because it’s part of my favorite tradition on my favorite day of the year, plus it’s a super quick meal. In less than twenty minutes you’ll be sitting down in front of your favorite Christmas movie and waiting for Santa to squeeze his big butt down your chimney.

As much as I love the Christmas holiday and spending time with my family on Christmas Day, the time I have to myself on Christmas Eve is just as precious to me. The past few years I’ve spent Christmas Eve day finishing up everything I need for the next day; making dessert to take to mom’s and wrapping the last of the gifts and putting them under the tree (for the cats, you know). But when the evening comes, it’s my time to relax, enjoy a glass of wine by light of the Christmas tree, watch a few of my favorite holiday classics, and dig in to this pasta.

As a matter of fact, the idea for this dish came directly from one of the movies I watch every year – The Holiday. It’s a (slightly cheesy) Nancy Meyers movie with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, and Jude Law (😍). In it, Kate Winslet’s character offers to make “Christmas Fettuccine” for Jack Black, and honestly, what could be better on Christmas Eve than a bowl of creamy, decadent pasta?

Nothing. Nothing is the answer. So let’s jump in.

What you’ll need: Fettuccine noodles (I bought fresh to cut down on time, but regular dried is fine), pancetta, heavy cream, butter, grated parmesan, garlic, shallot, and fresh parsley didn’t make it in the photo. Side note: the only pancetta I could find on this day was sliced, but if you can find a packaged of diced pancetta use that, or you can get a thick slice from the deli counter and dice it yourself.

While waiting for a large pot of water to boil, dice a large shallot and finely mince two cloves of garlic. Dice pancetta if necessary. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Add pancetta to the pan and allow to brown slightly. Add the minced garlic to the pan and sauté for a minute or two, until fragrant, but avoid letting it burn. (Remove the pan from the heat as necessary to avoid burning)

Salt water and boil pasta – if using fresh, it should only take about three to four minutes. If you’re using dry pasta, you might want to wait to make your sauce until the pasta is almost done cooking.

Seriously, this goes quickly.

Drain pasta and rest. Add the cream to the pan with the shallots and pancetta. Stir and allow to thicken for a few seconds.

Toss the pasta in the sauce, and add in the grated parmesan. Season (lightly) with salt and (heavily) with fresh cracked pepper.

Top with minced fresh parsley and a little more grated parmesan and serve.

A big bowl full of Christmas Fettuccine, a nice crisp Riesling, accompanied by The Holiday and Love Actually. Now that’s a perfect Christmas Eve.

Oh, I guess these jerks could hang out too.

Christmas Fettuccine 

  • 1 package (9oz) fresh fettuccine pasta (use half a pound of dry pasta)
  • 1 large shallot
  • 2 oz. diced pancetta (depending on availability)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tb unsalted butter
  • Half pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 Tb fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper

Dice shallot finely, mince garlic and parsley. Dice pancetta if needed. Boil water for pasta, and cook pasta according to package directions.

Melt butter over medium heat in a large pan. Add shallot to pan and sautĂ© for a few minutes until translucent. Add pancetta to pan and allow to brown. Add garlic and sautĂ© for a few seconds until fragrant but don’t brown. Add cream and grated cheese to the pan, and toss in cooked pasta. Toss until entirely coated with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of grated cheese on top.

Enjoy. Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

 

(Fashionably) Late To The Party.

Oh, my little kittens, how I’ve neglected you. I do apologize, and I could offer up all manner of excuses, but that’s just what they’d be — excuses. Lame ones at that.

So…my holidays were good, I was spoiled at Christmas, again. Santa thought I was a very good girl indeed. He must read the blog. I mean, how many times did I complain how awful my old P.O.S. Kodak was? Thanks, ‘Santa’! I also got a new alarm clock with iPod dock, a new iron (You know, for the three times a year I need to iron my clothes), a pair of ugly/cute Hello Kitty slippers, and the usual money and gift cards from the extended family.

My New Year’s Eve was quiet. I don’t usually do much for New Year’s – in fact, the past few years I’ve stayed home, made myself a fabulous meal, watched a movie, and been in bed by 11. This year, a friend from Twitter invited me to – of all things – a Bingo night at a fire station near her home. Apparently it’s a big deal every year – there’s a dinner (pork and sauerkraut, naturally – gotta love the Pennsylvania Dutch), five hours (!!) of bingo, then a band from 11 until 2. We had to skip the band, unfortunately – the bad weather kicked up and I had a 45 minute drive home. No money was won, but a fun time was had, and I am frightened of old Bingo ladies now more than ever. I’m pretty sure if I actually had won any money, I would have been flayed alive by grannies with blue bouffant hair dos.

New Year’s day I sat around the house, slept, and watched TV, including the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway special. I’m so going to win, by the way. When I do, you’re all invited to stay for a weekend. I’ll make pancakes and junk. I also took some time that day to think about New Year’s resolutions.

I don’t usually subscribe to that notion. I’m not exactly the kind of person that keeps their resolutions (who is, really, but it goes double for me). However, this year I’ve set myself a few goals, which include (but are not limited to):

  • Being more active, both with exercise and socially – I’m in danger of being a shut-in
  • Cutting out junk food and snacks in between meals (just the first step on a very long road, I figure slow and steady and all that jazz)
  • Try to be more open with others — I’m actually pretty shy in person, and I realized that being shy and quiet can come off as bitchy and closed off. Need to remedy that.
  • Manage my money a little better – I’m doing okay, but went a little overboard with spending the past month or so. I just want to try to reel it in a little and save more money, so I might take an actual vacation this summer.
  • Put that fancy new camera to good use and take lots of pictures, maybe even find a reasonable photo-taking class.
  • Get the house more in order so the basement and spare bedroom look more like liveable space (Ha! HGTV term, bitchez!) and less like rented storage facilities.
  • Write more often on this here blog.
  • Comment more often on others’ blogs.
  • Get Jasper a damn haircut already.
  • Recycle.

I figure I’d sneak one in there that I already do, so I’m already ahead of the game. HA!

Happy New Year, and all that jazz. Instead of hoping for a fabulous 2010, let’s go out and damn well make sure it is.

In Which I Get All Maudlin And Junk.

Sometimes during the work day, my mother and I will email back and forth just to talk about what we’re up to, what’s going on this weekend, or what have you. Closer to holidays or family get-togethers the emails fly fast and furious as we talk about plans, menus, gifts bought, and the various ways in which my grandmother is pissing her off (again).

This morning I sent my mother an email asking about a new address for a family member who recently moved, and the exchange continued into how each others’ Christmas preparations were coming along. They’re supposedly calling for plenty of snow in eastern PA this weekend, and we’ve both planned on taking advantage of being house bound by baking cookies and finishing up gift wrapping.

I mentioned as an aside that while going over my list of Christmas card recipients, I realized that I no longer needed to include my Aunt Madlyn & Uncle Bob on that list, and started to cry. She replied that she’d “been a mess all morning. Even though I know there is no one there & the phone no longer works, I want to call. I just want to call that number. Have been bawling all morning.” And then my heart broke.

It’s so easy to forget in the hustle and bustle of the season those we miss the most. The ones who shaped our fondest holiday memories & who in many ways, make us remember why this season is so special. For my mother, Aunt Madlyn is that person, and I know the pain from losing her combined with the joy of the holidays will make this a bittersweet season.

One of my goals for the holidays this year has been to help my mother in anyway possible, because I know it’s going to be hard for her. Whether it’s a day out shopping with no complaints, offering to help wrap gifts or bake an extra batch of cookies, or just a simple phone call to let her know I’m thinking of her…I just feel the need to connect with her even more since Aunt Madlyn passed. Because, you see – that person, the one who makes Christmas so special every year? For me, it’s always been my mom.

I Got Your Hustle and Bustle Right HERE, Pal.

I took Friday off this past week to do some holiday shopping with Momma-San. She’s never been to The Promenade Shops, which aren’t too far from here, there’s a Stein Mart in the South Mall that we both wanted to check out, and my local mall has some new stores that moms had never seen either. A lot to accomplish, to be sure, but we got an early enough start and had determination on our side. Plus our propensity for pig-headedness.

What we did not take into account, however, was a certain President’s visit to the area on the same day. I was hoping we would avoid POTUS for the most part, I knew he was going to be giving a speech at a local Community College, but I thought he wouldn’t be anywhere near where Momma-San and I would be shopping.

Uh. Suffice to say, I was wrong. The presidential visit on Friday basically shut down all traffic in and around the Allentown area. At one point we were stopped on Tilghman St. from passing underneath Rte. 309. We sat and waited, and about five minutes later we saw the motorcade pass by on the overpass.

I waved, but I don’t think he saw me. Heh.

We browsed at Stein Mart and the South Mall, then headed to the Promenade Shops, mainly for lunch. I don’t think mom realized the shops there are a little more upscale than where we usually shop. It was fun to look around, though; mom found a nice new coat at Old Navy, and we had a great lunch at Pandini’s. Gotta love a good wood fire pizza. After browsing a bit at the Promenade, it was off to the Lehigh Valley Mall, and by this time we were tired and just the tiniest bit annoyed with each other. At least I was.

Now, let me explain. When my mother goes shopping, even if it’s Christmas shopping for other people, she always ends up shopping for herself. Always. Maybe she needs a shirt, pair of pants, or (as was the case this day) a new jacket. She did buy the jacket earlier that day, but by the time we got to the mall, she felt she needed a new scarf to go with the jacket. So much so that she would get impatient with me when I found a store I wanted to shop in. I swear, I wasn’t in Lane Bryant for thirty seconds before she was all, “What do you need in here?” and *heavy sigh*. God forbid I’d want to look for myself for a few minutes. We went in a few other stores, but if there was nothing she was interested in, right away it was, “You know, I did want to leave by 3:30.” and “I still want to take a look in Pottery Barn.” and “You could find such a better deal on those Yankee Candles at the Crossings, you know.”

By this time I had had it. I said “FINE, I’m done, let’s go.” We finished browsing the stores she wanted to look at (Yeah, 40 bucks for pillows at Pottery Barn? Like Dad wouldn’t have a stroke if you brought those home.), grabbed a coffee for the ride home, and left. My tally for the day was one nice shirt for Big Poppa, a loaf of Challa bread for french toast from the Fresh Market, and the cutest scarf ever at Old Navy for myself, naturally(It’s not listed on their website, unfortunately. I’ll try to take a pic soon, it’s too cute to not be shared). I don’t really have that many gifts to buy, and I’m a fairly efficient shopper, so I should be able to finish up my holiday purchases in one or two more trips, which I’ll most definitely be taking ALONE, MOTHER.

SautĂ©ed Haricot Verts (Green Beans) with Caramelized Shallots

My family is having Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house this year. I messaged my aunt on facebook and asked what I could bring besides my usual pecan pie. I offered a vegetable, because they’re usually lacking on our Thanksgiving table. She politely declined, saying that “we’re all set” with dinner and to just bring the pie.

Then I emailed Mama San and asked if she and my aunt had finalized the menu, and again, wondering if I could bring anything else. “Oh, yeah, we’ve got it all set.” She wrote. “Turkey (of course), cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, and my swiss vegetable medley.” Hmmm. Meat, starch, starch, starch, and a veggie dish swimming in cream of celery soup, sour cream, and swiss cheese.

I am so bringing a vegetable.

This one takes literally ten minutes to make, perfect to throw together while your turkey is resting on the counter.

Haricot Verts (baby green beans) with Caramelized Shallots

1 lb. green beans (I could only find regular beans at the store, but the baby ones are much more tender and cook faster)
1 medium shallot, diced fine
2 TB butter
salt
pepper

Boil water in a shallow stainless steel pan. Cook green beans for 3-5 minutes, until tender with a slight crunch. Transfer beans to a bowl of ice water. This shocks them, to stop from over cooking and to help the beans keep their color. Dry the pan and return to medium heat. Add butter and diced shallot. Cook shallots until browned. Drain beans, return to pan, and heat through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Your family with thank you. And, by extension, me. So, you know. You’re welcome.

Pennsylvania Dutch Style Stuffing

Ah, Adam Sandler. How the mighty have fallen.

In celebration of Fat Girl Day Thanksgiving next week I’m sharing some of my favorite Turkey Day recipes. First up is my favorite Thanksgiving side dish, the classic Pennsylvania Dutch filling. We call it ‘filling’ in northeast PA, but you might know it as stuffing or dressing. My mom usually doubles (or triples, for eff’s sake) this recipe because she has an instinctive need to cook for an army.

Gram’s Chicken Filling
1 bag potato bread cubes
4 stalks celery
1 medium onion
3 TB fresh parsley
1 stick of butter (just roll with it, darlings, it’s Thanksgiving)
2-3 cups chicken stock
salt
pepper

Spread the bread cubes out on a sheet pan and toast in the oven at 350 degrees until cubes are browned and crusty.

Dice celery and onions, chop parsley fine. (I toss them all in a food processor and make quick work of them.) Saute the vegetables with 4 TB of butter until slightly browned. Melt the remaining 4Tb of butter with the vegetables and toss in a large bowl with the bread cubes. Add the chicken stock until the bread is moistened but not super wet. Mix well, pour into a baking dish, and bake at 375 about 45 minutes, or until browned and slightly crusty on top. Serve with or without gravy.


Stove Top, schmove top.

Bah. Humbug, Even.

Halloween is this Saturday, and my town always schedules Trick-or-Treat night the Friday before, from 6-8 pm. The first two years I lived in Allentown I was working middle shift at my previous job, so I was unfortunately not able to hand out candy to the neighborhood kids. The first year I was home to hand out candy I was super excited. I hung decorations and carved a pumpkin; I even dressed up for the occasion. Granted, I was in scrubs and a surgical cap, so I didn’t exactly exert myself getting a costume, but hey. I participated, damn it. And that’s what counts.

What I noticed that first year was that not a lot of people on my block seemed open for business during Trick-or-Treat. No lights on, no Jack O’Lanterns, no candy. I kind of blew it off as Crab-Ass Old Man Disease, figuring most of the people on my block just weren’t into it. I only ended up with a few Trick-or-Treaters that year, and an assload of mini Baby Ruths made it to work the next day.

Over the past couple of years I’ve seen an upswing in the number of Trick-or-Treaters I get ringing my doorbell, but the kind of kids that have been coming by? Let’s just say they’re not your ‘conventional’ Trick-or-Treaters.

What’s the difference between ‘Conventional’ and ‘Unconventional’ Trick-or-Treaters, you ask? Here, how about a list?

Conventional Young Trick or Treater: Are between ages 3-7, almost always accompanied by a parent or older sibling, wears requisite store-bought costume, usually of the Disney or Marvel Superhero variety. Carries plastic Jack O’Lantern for candy procurement. Says “Trick or Treat!” in the most excited and adorable way possible. Most times too shy to engage in conversation, i.e. “What are you supposed to be?” Usually the first to arrive in order to be home by bed time. Uterus-exploding potential (Scale of 1-5): 4

Conventional Older Trick or Treaters: Are between ages 8-12, sometimes accompanied by a parent but usually travel in packs (therefore slightly dangerous). Usually wears store-bought costume, i.e. Ninja, Witch, Harry Potter, but older kids sometimes go for the Zombie/movie serial killer look. Carries plastic store-bought Halloween bag or pillow case for candy procurement. Says “Trick or Treat” slightly excitedly, but oftentimes muffled. Will engage in conversation, especially if it means extra candy. Usually do not show up until after dinner. Uterus-exploding potential: 2.5

Non-Conventional Young Trick-or-Treaters: Are 24 months old and younger, always accompanied by an older sibling but carried by a parent who also holds Candy Procurement Device, sometimes a plush variety of the aforementioned plastic Jack O’Lantern. This type of Trick-or-Treater will be clad in the MOST ADORABLE OUTFIT EVER, thus making it impossible for you to deny Candy Deployment. DO NOT BE FOOLED. THE CANDY IS NOT FOR THE CHILD. Trick-or-Treater does not engage in conversation, preferring instead to gape at you and drool. Parents will say “Trick or Treat” and smile at you expectantly, as if to say “Look at my adorable baby, isn’t he/she so cute? Surely you’d like to give him/her candy for being so exceptionally cute even though he/she can’t eat candy yet and it’s totally for me but we don’t need to acknowledge that so hows about you pony up?” Usually show up during the 7PM rush, so you don’t realize you just gave candy to a 26-year old exploiting their child for a mini-Snickers bar. Uterus-exploding potential: Child alone: 5+ With Parent: 3. You don’t fool me. I know who that candy’s for, jerk.

Non-Conventional Older Trick-or-Treaters (Type One): Are ages 11-14. Slightly too old to be Trick-or-Treating, but you cut them some slack because who the hell else is going to eat those little Butterfingers? Travel in packs, tend to dress alike(usually as ‘Thugs’) and try to confuse you during Candy Deployment in an attempt to get more candy. Will begrudgingly grumble “Trick or Treat”, grab candy, and run. Usually show up towards the end of the night, probably banking on the fact that you’re hoping to get rid of your candy before 8. Uterus-exploding potential: .5

Non-Conventional Much Older Trick-or-Treaters (Type Two): Are aged anywhere from 14 to 18. Definitely too old to be Trick-or-Treating, but your ass isn’t going to say anything because those little bastards are most likely strapped. Travel in packs, mostly to confuse and intimidate. Will say “Trick or Treat”, but you’re not really listening because you just tossed candy at them and shut the damn door. Usually show up right before the end of the night, banking that you’ll give them candy just so they’ll go away and not rip out your hydrangeas. Uterus-exploding potential: Minus 20.

So with all the scary teenagers, surly preteens, and parents thieving their kids’ candy, I think I’m kind of Scrooged out on Halloween this year. Who wants to go to the movies?