That Last Weekend of Calm Before The Holiday Storm—And a Few Easy Recipes For You!

It’s now 1:03 on Sunday afternoon.  I am enjoying what most likely, will be, the last relaxing weekend of 2017.  The calm before the Holiday Storm, if you will.  Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday and I’ll be baking all Wednesday.  We’ll be spending Thanksgiving at my sister’s brother-in-law’s home. They live only 20 minutes away from us and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.

Among the desserts that was requested was a cheesecake recipe that I had made for years.  My recipe was published in the St. Ignatius Loyola school fundraiser cookbook that the parents compiled.  I can’t believe I still have this book–it was published in 1992 and this cheesecake recipe is a great one.  It dates itself in that I don’t use margarine anymore!  Here’s the recipe for you!

I miss the Racanelli ladies–they were a lot of fun.  It’s kind of sad when you lose touch with people…

The book is literally falling apart but it’s my prized possession from my days as a NYC mom!   This recipe makes THE best cheesecake ever.  You can top with fruit too!!

Today I woke up a bit—well, somewhat feeling anxiety creeping into my bones and felt like spending the day in my bespoke pj’s.

Nah!  I did NOT want to spend the day dressed like this–actually, I did want to.

But you know what?  I can’t get like that so I did my makeup, got dressed and plopped some bobbed hair upon my head.  I feel better already!

I dressed in a fun outfit–simple but with a mid-1960’s vibe!  Let’s do the Swim or the Mashed Potato!!

Bonaparte and I decided to spend yesterday saving on spending!

Not only did the outlets have some big sales–but they had rather big balls too!!

J. Crew Factory sent me a coupon for 60% off items that were normally on sale for 50% off—so an extra ten percent was a great deal! We did some Christmas shopping and I walked away with a gray Teddie Sweater, the Factory version of my beloved J. Crew Tippi Sweater.

How pathetic am I?  I sent a photo of this dress to Oona with the message  “I wish you were a little girl again so I could dress you up like this” .   Why isn’t that dress in MY size?

I have to say, Bonaparte is so nice to me.  He called me “Mon Ange” yesterday because he said I looked like an angel.

What a man!  Do angels wear fake hair piled atop their heads in a messy topknot?  Perhaps it’s my halo! (And yes. I went out with my hair like that!)

Even when I look like something the cat dragged in, he tells me I look nice.  That was just very sweet and unexpected!  Others call me much worse!!

Seriously—I’m in a good place having gotten a head start on the Christmas décor in the house.  I can concentrate on the food and what I can prepare and bake ahead of time.

Last night we started our dinner off with Escargot—the remainder from the order that was delivered last week.

Ohhhhh..these little snails were so delicious! I could have eaten two dozen!

We had steak with an anchovy cream sauce and I made Brussels Sprouts with cranberries and a balsamic reduction.

That anchovy sauce is life. L.I.F.E!!!

And this wine.  At under $25, it was really good!  It smelled like dirt and tasted very earthy–with a bit of a smokey taste.  Me likey!

Bonaparte was so excited because on Friday I surprised him with his favorite dessert—Crème Caramel.  But, I felt like having a bit of dessert myself.  Naturally, I’m really trying to watch what I’m eating and I don’t normally have dessert.  However, when I was at Produce Junction on Friday, I spotted Bosc Pears.  They were 6 for two dollars.  Now—I’m not a fan of pears unless they are cooked and I thought I might make a Pear Clafoutis for Bonaparte.

It’s amazing how he never tires of Creme Caramel!!  NEVER!!!

Instead, I got selfish and decided to poach some of the pears.  I love cooked pears!  But I wanted to try something different.  Since the cold weather is now in full-swing, I thought it would be a good idea to try some warm flavors in with the sweet.  I added sliced ginger and cardamom for starters.  The recipe is below.

I only used four of the six pears.  I might cook the others and add to salad with bleu cheese!

Poaching away.  Some turned right side up while cooking–see where I cored them?

Here’s the cardamom.  

I store it in a plastic bottle.  This is such a beautifully aromatic spice!

Can I just tell you that when the pears were poaching the scent of the ginger made the house smell so comfy—it was as though our home had turned into a giant bottle of ginger-ale!  But the end result was terrific.  BTW, I did not add cinnamon.  I’m not a fan of cinnamon. At all.  It’s way overused.  And if you would like to try this recipe, by all means, add cinnamon to your liking!

My pretty pears.  This was delicious…

The remainder is stored in this jar.  I’m almost tempted to make a caramel cream but I’m seriously cutting down before the Holidays!

Back to Friday. My mind is always spinning when it comes to the appetizers that I’ll serve—especially during Christmas week. Oona will be here a few days before Christmas.  I think Jake will too—he hasn’t let me know yet what day he will be arriving from L.A.  I’m hoping Roman comes a few days before Christmas —but I don’t know if Fallon will be shooting through the Friday before.  Or—he may come Christmas day with his dad.  (Yes.  I’ve invited my ex-husband and his girlfriend for Christmas dinner.  It makes things easier since two of the three kids will be traveling pretty far—and everyone gets along so why not?)

Anyway, back to appetizers.  I like to make things that are pretty-much non-fussy.  For instance,  Rillettes because they can be made in advance.  With the bread that I make or with crackers, it’s a win-win situation.  Plus, I can take a few moments to enjoy time with everyone before I go back into the kitchen to finish cooking.

Pâté is always a good choice and many of the pâtés I make can be time consuming.  I want something easier.  I spotted the last container of chicken liver at Wegmans and had an idea.  I could make a chicken liver pâté!  The recipe is below for you.  I call it a “Faux-tay” simply because my food snobby Frenchman said that I didn’t serve it formed as a true pâté, in loaf form.  Anyway……

Don’t forget to strain the chicken livers before cooking!  

It was great!  He loved it.  This will be made in a few—actually three more weeks and stored in the fridge for Christmas Eve or whenever the family want’s it!

I like placing sage atop the finished product for that something extra..

The clarified butter really helps to seal the pate and it tastes good too!

This time of year really brings out the cook in me.  I’m no pro but boy, cooking is just so calming for me.

As I write this, I have chili in the crockpot.  I literally threw everything together.  Here’s what I did.

Chili in the crockpot for tonight!

Atypical60 Chili!

1 pound ground beef; 1 can kidney beans; 2 cans Rotel Tomatoes with Habanero Peppers; 1 large onion; 2 cloves garlic; 3 jalapeno peppers; tomato paste; harissa; cumin; chili powder; salt; pepper

Chop the onion, jalapenos and garlic (I pulsed in the food processor—otherwise I would cry because of the onion).  Put a little oil in a sauté pan and sweat all three till the onions are transparent.  Then spoon them into the crock pot.   Add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and the harissa into the onion mixture and stir (I used tubed tomato paste because it’s more economical).

HARISSA!  I LOAD up on this when I’m in France because it’s dirt cheap–I can get two tubes for about one euro!  Here is like four bucks a tube.  If you can’t find it, don’t worry–the chili will be fine! This is just my secret ingredient that is no longer a secret!  

Brown the meat in the same pan that the onions, etc. were cooked in.  When browned, drain the grease of the meat.  Then put the meat into the crock pot.

Open the cans of the Rotel tomatoes and pour contents into the crock pot.  Add the kidney beans—bean liquor and all.  Give it all a good stir.

Add the cumin (I add a lot!) and chili powder, salt and pepper.   Cook it all in the crock pot for a few hours on low.

Serve over rice topped with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

I can tell you this much—this chili has a ton of heat from the habanero’s and the jalapenos.  If you like a milder chili, get the regular Rotel tomatoes.

And that’s about it!  Hope you like the recipes and I hope you are enjoying this calm weekend before the Holiday Storm!

In homage to my outfit today, I give you…James Brown from the movie “Ski Party”!!! Part of the entertainment of this clip is watching the extreme lack of rhythm that white people have–watch the clapping!


About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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24 Responses to That Last Weekend of Calm Before The Holiday Storm—And a Few Easy Recipes For You!

  1. ejsna says:

    Love your vibrancy in writing. I must try your cheesecake recipe before Christmas! Greetings from The Netherlands.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi ejsna!!!! Oh…definitely try it!! And add a splash of vanilla to it! I just took one out of the oven for tomorrow!!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!!

      • ejsna says:

        Happy Thanksgiving, Catherine. Your Thanksgiving table must be filled with all things lovely today for you make beautiful creations! – Jane

  2. angelin2014 says:

    The recipes look great! I may actually steal the pate’ one and try it for Xmas:)
    A few posts back I wrote a long comment about Ikea, but it just disappeared😩thats tech for you. Anyway, being Swedish and practically being brought up assembling Ikea I would suggest following: always let the flat package rest one day before assembling, then take a cup of coffee and read through the instructions. Count all parts screws etc. this is crucial. Nothing worse than Finding you miss a vip piece at the end. Be calm. Walk away for ten minutes when you are looking it. And when you are finished, celebrate with a stuff drink:)
    I will never forget my poor father’s look when he proudly showed his family the very high Billy bookshelves he had assembled, sweat pouring down his face as he had placed them along the living room Wall, and my brother said ”but Dad, isnt the back of the shelf the wrong way around” And they were.

    • angelin2014 says:

      It should be ”loosing it”

      • Catherine says:

        Ohhhhh Angelin! I can just imagine your poor dad’s face when the moment of truth was revealed about the Billy shelves! I would have cried! And kept things as they were! After all, books would be covering the error!! But it’s true, you just have to walk away sometimes!! Your advice is sage!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  3. Momcat says:

    OMG!! I just adore you in the black leggings and red sweater with the red flats!! Now that’s how Ann Margaret would dress when doing her Christmas baking…if she had done any Christmas baking in the ’60’s!! My Mom used to dress like that in the early sixties…it was kind of her uniform. Even though my grandfather was aghast and said she looked like a BEATNICK! You look just awesome…I am going to try the pears, I love cardamom.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Momcat! LOL. YES! That is a totally Ann Margaret outfit. Your mother had excellent taste btw! Too funny—I guess it is kind of a Beatnik look but boy, I haven’t heard that term in years!!!!! Oh. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  4. Doreen says:

    Hi Catherine, I just love your recipes! And your blog of course! Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your house full of love! Cheers, Doreen

  5. fiona says:

    You are such a wonderful cook mon ange! (You just reminded me of Marc Lavoine’s Parking des Anges) I might try the poached pears, they look utterly delicious. Pears in France are actually ripe…here they are sold so bloody rock hard you could use them as missiles. Love your outfit today, I wore my tartan skirt thanks to you. Wow, 60% off is a discount worth having! Lovely pic of Bonaparte…I would love to be somebody’s ‘ange’…sigh. xx

    • Catherine says:

      Hi fiona! I love Marc Lavoine!! I love that song! Yeah…definitely try the poached pears–they are delicious! I’m so happy you went with the tartan skirt!!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!!

  6. J says:

    Thanks for all the recipes!

  7. Debra says:

    I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your blog and your videos! What I admire most is your willingness to put yourself out there in an honest and relatable way. And of course there’s Chippy….

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Debra! Thank you so much! Lately I’ve been getting a bit down because it seems that the blog is not moving and I’m sometimes ready to give it all up. But when I receive such an honest and kind comment like yours, it inspires me. Thank you for this gift of inspiration!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  8. eveange33 says:

    Hmm really now you make me so hungry, I want it all. But I would really be interested to get the recipe (yes others) of the anchovy sauce and the roasted brussel sprouts you showed: they are just in season and they do deserve some care. Here, nobody really like brussel sprouts but I do, along with turnip. Especially good in pot au feu (do you cook it as well, this is the season too). How lovely to be called “Mon ange” by your husband which is very kind and sweet. Well ange is part of my handle as well. You gave me idea to wear leggings as smart outfit: usually I wear them for pilates of when I need to clean the house. But I do have a red cashmere sweater, red leather flats and a pair of thick black cotton leggins well .. somewhere. As I moved recently, I don’t know where it is.
    You know, you do look good with even light make up as in the pictures: that’s your energy and dynamics shinning through and that’s all you need to be bright. Of course, one should use also all the nice stuff that one gets, it would be sad not to pamper oneself with all those wonderful colours. Totally off post, but I counted the other day and I have uhh nearly 50 eyeliner pencils and about 20 lipstick of which, of course, I am always using the same colour.
    If ever we meet one day, I’ll try to make a nice meal as well.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi MB. This damned computer. Once again, I lost a complete reply! I’ll be posting the anchovy sauce probably next week. The Brussels Sprouts: Par boil them for a few minutes. Drain. Get an oblong or gratin pan. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom. Place the sprouts in the pan. Add dried cranberries. Drizzle balsamic vinegar on top. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 350 for about an hour!
      I hope we meet too. I am itching to get back to Paris very soon!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  9. Juliet says:

    Oh that all looks so yummy (and here I am attending WW), especially the pear – and I am not normally a dessert person but I love cardamom. I am with you on cinnamon – and yet I normally love herbs or spices, I guess because it is a “lazy” spice – flung in everything without much thought and also it goes dusty and loses its fragrance when it is left in a cupboard for long – and it is probably the spice that suffers that fate more than the others. We don’t experience thanksgiving over here – and Christmas is just something as a family we get through but already the shops are starting the Christmas music, which is a bit grim. I love taking part in your celebrations via blog and I so agree with getting up and slapping on the face and the clean clothing no matter what, especially when suffering anxiety

  10. mareymercy says:

    My goodness what a great cook you are! I suck at it, unfortunately. Love the bob AND the messy topknot! Messy buns are my new favorite thing – hair buns, that is.

  11. bluetulips says:

    Catherine, we don’t have Thanksgiving here. I don’t get all festive till about December and even then it is so different because we are in Summer. For me right now I am into spring cleaning the house, clear the drawers of unwanted clothes and declutter. In between that there is the catch ups with friends, Then about 1 week before Christmas I help my mum with baking Greek sweets. Which all the family and friends look forward to. I hope to one day experience a ” White Christmas” as they say, eg snow, walking the streets of NYC or even better in Montreal where I have family. But I am scared of the extreme cold!!!!!!! LOL. Right now I am eating salads as it is a very warm 36C today (96.8F) and the nights are super warm as well. All that food is making want to eat, I have never made Chilli, I must try and the pears look yummy also. I can’t wait to see pics of Thanksgiving and Christmas day…..

  12. Annmarie campbell says:

    I am definitely trying the pears, Catherine! They look delicious- and so healthy too! Also, I wanted to say that I also invite my ex over for special occasions.. my husband is also really good about it! I decided that getting along for the sake of my grown children, is more important than anything else! Thanks for all the wonderful recipes!!😘 Happy Thanksgiving!!

  13. The Lakewoman says:

    James Brown in a Nordic sweater…..only you could find that!

  14. 3C Style says:

    You are such an arty woman. Like the outfit, oh- red looks lovely on you. And your recipes, OMG they look delicious. La crème caramel, c’est certain que je n’aurais pas pu résister!

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