Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Our 2013 Christmas Letter

Dear friends, enemies, and borderline apathetic observers,

It's Christmas time again, so let's take a look at the past year.  Be prepared for loads of humble bragging and inappropriately intimate confessions, especially concerning our digestive health.

First, I'd like to let you in on a free secret, mainly because I read that offering something free will someday lead to you paying me and I only do things on here for money.  Next time you make meatloaf, consider eliminating the ketchup and putting in parmesan cheese and finely chopped nuts (I've use walnuts, pecans, or almonds).  Damn, it's good.

We're starting to like jewelry around here.
But let's get to the meaty stuff, none of which you've heard before, I promise.  Ryan started a new job as well as grad school, Katie began kindergarten at the "poor, scary school", Winslow has begun indoctrination at preschool, Drew still hates school, and I took a chemistry class for no good reason.  We got new windows and siding thanks to a HUD program, gave the girls our big bedroom, made the bathroom better than terrible, painted the kitchen cabinets, resurfaced our driveway, and upgraded our electrical panel for the second time in 2 years. The basement flooded, the pipes froze, the main breaker overheated several times, and a big branch dented our van's hood.  Speaking of trees, we cut down five more trees and harvested 6 whole Rainier cherries.

Look, I got paper for Christmas!
We binge-viewed The West Wing, Fringe, Sherlock, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black, among other shows, and Ryan's netbook finally gave up.  The kids spent over 4 weeks in Georgia, some with me, some without, we all made it down to New Orleans, and Ryan and I had a great vacation to the Caribbean. We grew loads of tomatoes and even a few watermelons.  And to top that off, the cat did his job and recently caught a mouse.

We're still pretty broke (see: tree removal), I still have a book I wrote sitting in a drawer (possibly for eternity), and Ryan still doesn't trim his beard often enough, but I'd say it's been a pretty good year.  Low expectations, people, make all the difference!

Merry Christmas and everything else so you're not offended,

The Kiefers

P.S. And here's a bonus!  Because I love you!

Have you always wanted to know how to eat Brussels sprouts with gagging?  Well, have I got a recipe for you.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the sprouts in half and toss in olive oil and lots of salt.  Roast for 15-20 minutes depending on your taste for brown goodness.  If you really want a religious experience, brown some butter on the stove, add a little balsamic, and then pour the mixture over the roasted sprouts.  Eat them all.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cold Remedies

It's cold around here these days. Unseasonably cold, actually.  And I don't know about you, but my insides are screaming two things: 1) Warm me up and 2) Please feed me vegetable matter. No, not that ice cream, which is a vegetable in your little fantasy world, but real, fiber-laden vegetables.

So I gathered all the vegetables in the house and got to work.

I had three shades of bell pepper (although not green, thankfully), onions, carrots, and kale.  I sauteed them with salt and pepper until soft. I threw in some leftover homemade salsa and some canned tomato sauce (crushed tomatoes would've been great, as would fresh).  Lots of chili powder and some paprika.  This whole process took 45 minutes, although most of that was unsupervised time while I cracked open a bottle of sparkling wine.

I poured the mixture into a 9x13 casserole and made 6 divots in the sauce with a spoon.  I cracked an egg into each divot, sprinkled Parmesan as well as cheddar cheese over the eggs, and popped the dish into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  You could do more or less depending on your oven and your taste for runny yolks.

Served with Kansas City's Farm to Market Sesame Seed Bread (that's slathered in butter), this dish is delicious and soul-satisfying.

Other variations: 1) use Cumin, skip the peppers, and serve with feta 2) plop dollops of ricotta into each divot before cracking the eggs* 3) Eat your fiber rich cereal and regret it later with some serious toots

That dinner gave us the energy to put up the tree.  All three chirrens helped this year, so the ornament placement is...interesting, but I prefer interesting to uniform and boring!

Hope y'all are staying warm.

*If you want a more precise recipe, start with this one from Bon Appetit.  Or this Middle Eastern version.  We love both.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Food, Family, and more Food

Last week was a whirlwind of travel as we drove down to New Orleans (14.5 hours in the car), stuffed our faces, did a little sightseeing, and then drove back home (16 hours due to traffic).   

We started Tuesday with a giant popover that is easy and delicious.

Then Wednesday we got in the van for the long trek to New Orleans.  No changing table at one stop combined with very cold conditions led to this hilarious situation along the way.

Thanksgiving day, we enjoyed Turducken (which is apparently spelled "Turduchen" by many) with shrimp, mirliton, and ham dressing.  Y'all know how I feel about turkey (read: I hate it), but this was delicious.  They're a local treat in New Orleans, so you can get them fresh.

We served the bird(s) with the finest side dish known to man: Le Sueur peas straight out the can.  With super buttery mashed potatoes and Sister Schubert rolls, we had a meal meant for kings.

Sparkling wine to make everyone cheery.

Ending with Brocato's Spumoni, which is my favoritest ice cream in the whole wide world.

We pulled a tourist maneuver at Peche and photographed our beautiful oysters.

The whole red snapper was delightful. If you go to this new restaurant, which I highly recommend, order the whole fish, which changes daily.  You might think, "What the hell do I do with the head?".  My friend, you dig around to search for the meat. You don't have to stick the whole head in your mouth, I promise.  We picked that baby clean.  Anyway, don't go to a seafood restaurant and order the only beef dish on the menu.  Pretty please with butter on top.

Ryan finally got to see the French Quarter, and we got pralines at Southern Candymakers.  The store ain't the prettiest around, but we love the candy.  Try the sweet potato variety--it's really spectacular.

We ended the trip with Ryan looking for PBS.  This was his main workout for the trip.

And this is what we've watched happen over the last 24 hours.  Our house is getting there, minute by minute!

I hope y'all are enjoying the holiday season and avoiding the stampedes at the local Walmarts.
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