Today I realised my son is turning American.  We were in the Post Office, furiously rushing to send a soon-to-be-overdue-birthday present home (could I possibly blame the postal system here on it's lateness??) when he burst into song.  And not just any song, but a 'holiday song' that went something like...'I'm glaaaaad I'm not a turkey, oh I'm glaaaaad I'm not a turkey cos they will paste me and taste me...'  I  wonder what they are teaching my kid at this school?  
[I have since learned that the song's actual lyrics are...'They'll cook you and baste you, And then they'll all taste you...']

Our first Turkey Day, we spent with Non Americans.  New to the country and new to the tradition of Thanksgiving we readily accepted an invitation to spend the day with our new neighbourhood friends - he of English and she of New Zealand descent- their 1 year old daughter being the only true American in our group.  Now our friend Ed is a great cook but in a previous life he must have been an army chef as he always cooks enough to feed a battalion.  Last Thanksgiving was no exception - in fact we had enough food for 10 adults, not the four of us.  He had got so carried away with the theme of the day that there were no less than eight side dishes to go with the massive bird (as you can see below).  His philosophy on Thanksgiving - if you're going to do it, do it all.  
Being new to this particular style of festive cooking I offered to do dessert and a 'green side dish' (and no it wasn't 'the green stuff' from fellow blogger Sarah's family repertoire!). Looking back a year later, I am more than a little ashamed to say I cheated on the dessert and bought a pie [from a reputable local source I might add, but bought, nonetheless] and did one of the easiest sides ever - Green Bean Casserole.

I had been watching an interesting documentary about Thanksgiving dishes and was fascinated by this one - the origins of which stemmed from the lovely ladies (all with Home Economics majors)in the Campbells Soup Test Kitchen in 1955.  Reputedly, one of them decided to mix a can of condensed mushroom soup with some green beans she had on hand [no doubt canned or frozen - it was the 50's]... The ingredient that particularly fascinated me - french fried onions in a can!I had to try it!

So here it is, my Kiwified version of the American Thanksgiving classic and one I am also doing again this year.  
P.S. I will definitely be taking this recipe back home eventually, along with the wonderful tradition of Thanksgiving! And in the absence of family, this year I will definitely give thanks to our wonderful neighbours and friends xx

Green Bean Casserole (serves 6)
1 Tbspn butter or butter (or both)
1 1/2 cups of mixed mushrooms (brown, button, portabello,porcini etc)
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic (crushed)

small bunch of thyme, chopped
1 pound (500gm) fresh green beans (or frozen or canned as last resort)

1 can best mushroom soup (I use Campbell's Portabello Mushroom and Madeira Bisque)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
100gms (4 oz) fried onion pieces (I use Trader Joe's)


Heat butter and oil in large frypan and saute onion, garlic, thyme and mushrooms til golden and cooked (about 10 mins).  Meanwhile steam beans in a separate pot til just tender.  Add beans to mushroom mix in frypan then pour over soup and mix well.
Pour the lot into a medium sized casserole dish and top with grated parmesan and fried onion pieces.  Bake for 15 - 20 mins until golden and cheese is bubbling.
Serve with large bird and 50 sides...HAPPY THANKGIVING xx

 
 

As the leaves start to fall,my thoughts for recipe inspiration are definitely turning to more autumn vegetables - pumpkin, squash, carrots, parsnips and all those other lovely root vegetables.  Meals too, are more warming; more spicy and more comfort-type food.  Sadly our local farmers market is almost closing up but I did manage to pick up some beautiful beetroot and red onions there last week.  And after a recent trip to Eden Market in South Orange, bought some delish lamb sausages and a packet of cranberries - a meal was forming in my head... 
I am pleased to say that despite now living in the land of the Hot Dog, I have been able to buy some great sausage variations here.  One I especially love is the Sweet Italian with fennel seeds [which sadly my kids won't eat - though probably just as well or we would eat them every day...].  I also discovered some great German style bratwurst at Costco over summer which were great on the barbie!
Another great harvest food (and in time for Thanksgiving)is cranberries.  Now, coming from the Southern Hemisphere, the only cranberries I had ever seen came already juiced and with an Ocean Spray logo on the bottle. The real things are quite different - very tart (which makes me wonder how much sugar Mr OS puts in his juices!) yet kind of sweet at the same time and very delicious.  A well meaning friend did advise not to eat them raw - 'they are better cooked' though of course I just had to try didn't I?!
So Thursday night was dinner out for me with the Pantry team but, feeling a little guilty, I decided to make the classic comfort food dish (bangers and mash with an autumn twist) for the troops left at home:

Spicy Lamb Sausage with Caramelised Onions and Cranberries
(serves 4)

2 lamb sausage spirals (or 5-6 of any other good sausages)
3 - 4 red onions
2 Tbspns brown sugar
2 Tbspns balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic
6-8 sprigs of rosemary
1 cup cranberries (the magic ingredient of the month!)
Good lug of olive oil

Preheat oven to 300 F and chop up onions into thick slices/ thin wedges.
Layer onions in an oven tray along with the garlic cloves and sprinkle with brown sugar, olive oil, balsamic and salt and pepper.
Roast for approx 30 - 40 minutes in medium oven then add sausages, cranberries and rosemary on top.
Roast for a further 15 - 20 minutes (depending on thickness of sausages, stirring occasionally.

Serve [when sausages are done and onions are soft and caramelised] with your BEST mashed potatoes.

 
 
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The Back Yard
Okay, I am not going to discuss the recent freak storm that hit our town, leaving it like a war zone.  I think my fellow bloggers have covered that one very well. And our household (and strangely HALF our street) was one of the few that never lost power.  So instead of dealing with no power, we became a refuge for friends without.  One family moved in and another (with 4 kids) dropped by daily for meals, laundry,a charge up (computers, phones, DS games...how on earth did we live without these things before - well actually quite happily but that's another story!) and a much needed laugh.

I thought everyone coped really well - it was so much fun pooling our fridgefuls of food and trying to make dinner for 14 people both delicious and even a tad gourmet!  One friend was very well stocked (even on a normal week she buys enough food for a month each week).  So we had her divine homemade lasagne (luckily defrosted and ready to go) one night, 'Three Pantry Pasta' the next, Homemade Everything in the Fridges pizzas,'Mixed Larder Roasts' and chicken. To ensure our spirits were high, we also tried out some great wines over the week and Sangria (see Kate's recent post!).  It's times like these that you really realise the value of friendship and we are lucky to have shared this time with such wonderful, easygoing houseguests - the best!  I am now really missing my 'family away from families' and the house seems just too quiet...!

Post storm, and post snow though, our street was a MESS!  Branches down, fences down, and in some yards - whole trees down.  However I was so proud, as husband and our neighbours all got together and started the clean up process; chainsawing branches, piling them up on the kerbside and this weekend, after about 8 truckloads (two trucks going simultaneously) taking the lot off to the dump.  To reward all the hungry workers I decided to whip up some cheese scones (or biscuits as the Americans call them).  Not quite enough of the prized NZ Cheese I usually have on hand but remembered a bag of 'American cheese' I was given by my neighbour (from her Dad, via Costco, via a massive 5kg 'feeding an army through the storm mentality' bagful...).  

These scones were therefore an international mix - a nod to 'the old country', one to our new country of residence and our lovely friends and neighbours!

Kiwi/American Cheese Scones


3 cups flour
4 tspns baking powder
1  1/2 to 2 cups milk
100gms/1 stick/4oz  COLD butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I use Trader Joe's NZ Cheddar but if you're lucky enough to be in NZ, anything will do - otherwise sharp American cheddar)

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a big bowl.  Chop up butter into very small pieces and rub through flour with your fingers until it resembles medium-fine breadcrumbs.  Add 1 cup of the cheese and mix through.
Slowly stir in milk and mix with a knife to combine into a moist bread-type dough (you may need to add a bit more flour if it's too sticky).  Turn out onto a floured oven tray and shape into a large rectangle brick shape.  Cut wedges approx 4cm/2 inches thick and place on oven tray.

Using the extra 1/2 cup of cheese, place a bit on the top of each scone, brush with milk and bake in a medium oven for approx 10 minutes or until golden.
Serve with butter - jam optional  (a bit weird I know but trust me it works!).
 
 
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I have found it!  Finally - a fun venue for kids that serves a decent coffee for the mums and dads...a short trip into NYC to Downtown/Tribeca and you will find Moomah - part cafe, part artspace, part blue light disco lounge for kids.  Given recent events in much of Northern New Jersey (ie no school, no power) this would be a great place to spend a morning or an afternoon!

Having heard the buzz about the place, some friends and I decided to check it out during the last school holidays.  We rounded up a posse of mums and kids (6 in total) and headed into the city.  A train and subway ride later, we were 'starving and thirsty' - despite numerous earlier snacks on both methods of transport.


Arriving at Moomah we were delighted to see it relatively quiet, though our crew soon made up for that.  The place was well worth the trip - fantastic coffee and a great selection of food for both kids and adults alike - not your standard fare either.  Moomah's food philosophy is about presenting wholesome, organic food in interesting ways - '...kids' favorite staples and dishes to excite the grown-up palate'.  Here you can get also get a good variety of gluten free options.  Their 'Supertryer' sampler plates with choices such as apples, dates, avocado, hummus and edamame are a great idea.  

After some fab grilled cheese sandwiches, and mini pizza bagels for the kids (divine salads and coffee for the Mums) it was time for our budding Picassos and Warhols to unleash their creative side.  Moomah has a dedicated art space where, for an additional fee your kids can work on a wide variety of craft and painting projects (or you can purchase these as ready-made DIY kits to take home).

And when the kids get tired of creating, there is a big back room with projected lights and a 'funky forest theme' for them to dance and play around in.
Check it out:  
Moomah Cafe, 161 Hudson Street — Downtown Tribeca
(between Laight and Hubert Streets)
New York NY