home is where the heart is

I’m not a fan of Mondays by any stretch of the imagination… quite frankly, I don’t know anyone who is. But Mondays after a nice, relaxing four-day holiday staycation? Those Mondays are the absolute worst. After four days off, your pajamas are perfectly worn in, you’ve found the groove on the couch that’s just right and you’ve established a new schedule for yourself: sleep in, eat, watch TV, nap, shop, dinner, drinks, repeat. And then Monday has the nerve to come knocking with its 6:45 AM alarm clocks and skipped breakfast and annoying commute.

Okay – end of rant.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving – I know I did. I was a little saddened when I woke up on Thursday to a quiet apartment, sans my two cats who were busy trying to eat doorstoppers (weirdos). Thanksgiving at my parents’ house always involved waking up early to the hustling and bustling of my mom and dad in the kitchen. My dad muttering something about the name of the turkey, my mom making a fuss about the mess in the kitchen and my brother, sister and I ripping up loaves of bread for the homemade stuffing. I missed the chaos.

But Mike and I were excited to start some “chaos” of our own. Mike was off to the grocery store to pick up the “fattest chicken he could find,” while I started prepping the apartment with pumpkin scented candles, setting the table and creating a schedule. Once Mike returned, hilarity ensued.

Martha Stewart in the making… you can’t have a holiday feast without a floral arrangement.

Neither Mike nor I have ever cooked a whole chicken before. I knew that he’d have to clean out the “giblets” inside the chicken and made it very clear that I’d cook everything else if he took care of that one task.  After several failed attempts to “man up,” he finally took the plunge and got starting on cleaning out the chicken.

One of my favorite parts of the day… watching Mike become a man.

We found a simple, yet mouthwatering recipe from Pioneer Girl that called for a few ingredients: butter, lemon, garlic, onion, thyme, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Our mis en place for the chicken — I love the smell of fresh herbs.

We stuffed the inside of the chicken with a whole lemon, a few cloves of smashed garlic (to release the aromas and juices), and a few slices of onion. Once she’d be stuffed, we gave her a bath in a coat of butter to crisp up her skin and slathered her with the fresh herbs. After she was dressed up and ready to go, we shoved her in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

This was absolutely the best chicken I’ve ever had. Not to brag or anything.

As the chicken was browning in the oven, I started the arduous task of making homemade mac n’ cheese. Mac n’ cheese really is a labor of love. I decided to make a copycat recipe of Panera’s white cheddar stovetop macaroni since it’s one of my favorites (who doesn’t love Vermont sharp white cheddar?) This involved a lot of whisking, yelling at Mike for dumping in the flour too quickly, more whisking, yelling at Mike for dumping in the milk too quickly, more whisking, yelling at Mike for the sake of yelling and finally a few cups of cheese. It turned out absolutely amazing. I could have eaten the pound of pasta myself. Luckily, I didn’t.

To accompany the chicken and macaroni we had your typical Thanksgiving sides – roasted baby potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans and rolls. It was quite a feast for two people.

Hard to believe all of this food was for two people! Good thing I love leftovers.

To wash down our yummy meal, I made homemade apple cider sangria. It was surprisingly very easy to make and absolutely delicious to drink. Using a bottle of Yellowtail Moscato, a few cups of apple cider, three chopped honeycrisp apples and a few splashes of cognac – it was the perfect holiday drink.

With a dash of cognac (or brandy) this is what fall would taste like in liquid form.

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a sweet treat. While I absolutely love pumpkin pie – baking and desserts aren’t really my specialty. So I decided to try something different and make a lite pumpkin pie cheesecake mousse.

The perfect ending to a delicious meal.

I have never been happier about throwing tradition out the window because this dessert was to die for and it was so easy to make! All it called for was pumpkin puree, skim milk, light cream cheese, cinnamon, stevia, pumpkin spice and light whipped cream. And all I had to do was throw all of the above into a blender and let it sit for an hour. Amazing!

They weren’t lying when they said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Judging by the look on Mike’s face… I think it’s safe to say we had a delicious first Thanksgiving meal on our own together. Sure it involved the smoke detector going off a few times and I may have found pumpkin puree in my hair later that day… but I wouldn’t trade any of it. Together, we made that day feel like home, even though we were hundreds of miles away.

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