We had breakfast (homeade blueberry pancakes, Wisconsin maple syrup, fake sausage patties and lots of coffee) with our good friends Derek and Lanore this morning before they hit the road for Virginia (I was supremely jealous as I watched them drive away). Derek, a fantastic singer/ songwriter who has collaborated with Dan (including on this song– one of my favorites), was in town to play a show at The Frequency last night. In addition to “Old Fashioned,” Derek wrote an anthemic song about the Pine Cone truckstop off of I-94 between Madison and Milwaukee and can do a soul-bearing cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless.”
Unfortunately Dan and I missed Derek’s set last night because we had an important task to do, which I will share in a future post…. We did however catch a set by The Snowbirds, a band out of Green Bay and Milwaukee. They were a little bit country (the good kind of country- like Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard) and even covered a song by one of my new favorite old bands, The Flying Burrito Brothers. It was a really good show- I enjoyed watching Gary doing a lot of foot stomps and rocking out on acoustic guitar and Dan was enamored with the pedal steel guitar. But one of my favorite parts of the whole evening was when I got home from the show and realized that the wrist band I had received at the door declared, “I am allowed to drink booze.” Well I suppose I am.
This morning Derek requested that I post that recipe for whole wheat pasta that I mentioned in my previous post. So I will start with that for my continued list of holiday highlights.
Highlight #4: Pasta dinner with my parents and Dan…
The night after my parents arrived from Oklahoma my mom and I made this recipe from The New York Times. We served it with a loaf of good bread and roasted cauliflower and laughed hard about the time that my dad and his friend were watching Dairyland Jubilee and drove to the local tv station in an attempt to polka dance with Miss Whithee Bell. The story gets better from there but I think I might get in trouble if I say anymore. Here’s the recipe for the pasta (we doubled it for four people). It was delicious- I can’t wait to make it in the summer when the zucchini and basil are in season (and possibly grown in my garden).
This is a recipe from the Dining section of The New York Times, October 12, 2010.
Creamy Pasta With Roasted Zucchini, Almonds and Basil
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 sprig basil, with leaves and stem
3 tablespoons goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
6 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti or linguine.
1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Toss the zucchini and oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Arrange zucchini on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until golden and tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
3. Simmer the cream and basil sprig in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Whisk in the goat cheese until the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and keep warm.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well. Toss the pasta with the cream sauce. Serve topped with the zucchini and almonds.
Yield: 2 servings.
#5: Our trip to Evanston, Illinois a couple of days after Christmas to visit friends.
In an extremely cozy house built a very long time ago we drank champagne and ate roasted brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Despite being told that they were vegan, I abstained from eating the ribs, but I heard they were delicious.
We finally made our way to bed after a sing-along with Dan and Pat. A good time was had by all.
#6: Our Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve Scrabble games.
We started playing Scrabble again a couple of years ago. We usually abide by the rules but we have had some ridiculous games (usually to accommodate my sister who used to become frustrated easily while playing, but has recently greatly increased her gameplay) where we allowed words like “jaxed” (as in, “Oh man, you just got ‘jaxed’), “manrib” (?) and “epain” (pain received via the internet).
Dan is generally in charge of naming the competitors and this particular game was a grueling battle between Groggy, Cold and Clean! For once I, Cold, was victorious!
We also honor a tradition established with my cousins at a family reunion in Montana: After the game everyone holds up the number of fingers of their finishing ranking and must have a look on their face that reflects their position. And then we take a photo which is usually pretty entertaining.
#7: Making owl-shaped Christmas cookies in the likeness of Green Bay Packers players.
It was our friend Maggie’s idea and I think she is full of good ideas. Do you think “fans” of other teams do this? I don’t. Go Pack Go!!!!!!!!
#8: Last but not least, Christmas Day.
Christmas Day officially started at my sister’s friend’s parents’ house where we sat around the fireplace and sipped on rum and cokes. My sister and I walked home at about 3 a.m. through the perfectly quiet and snowy streets of our neighborhood. It was one of those nights where you just want to walk through those streets forever. Sneaking in the house around 3:30 we were greeted by our father who has had to deal with our late nights for a very long time. The next morning we opened stockings and a few presents at home and then we were off to our aunt and uncle’s house where we enjoyed mimosas, coffee, egg frittata and fruit salad. In the afternoon we took our traditional trip to the street where my dad grew up to visit his friend’s mom who is 102-years-old this year and an incredible woman.
After that was Christmas dinner at our friends’ house.
Sitting around a familiar wooden table in a candlelit dining room with Japanese rice paper windows we popped open Christmas crackers, laughed at our fortunes and wore colored paper crowns. We ate spinach, citrus salad with pomagranate seeds, potatoes and peppermint stick ice cream pie. We drank wine and cheersed to being together. And at one point our host put on his golden lame suit bequeathed to him by his dear friend and put on a song and dance routine. It was a magical evening.
After dinner we went across the street to the neighbor’s house where people from the neighborhood have started to gather on Christmas night for an outdoor fire. We sipped a little whiskey, listened to a little banjo, and had a grand ol’ time. After we left the fire Dan, my sister and I were off to the Laurel Tavern to see who would show up and to catch up with some old friends. I knew it at the time, but in retrospect, it really was quite the day.
Happy 2011. Here’s to a healthy, peaceful and happy year with lots of highlights.