Adulting: Holiday Hosting


This year we did Thanksgiving as well as a ladies Christmas potluck. I love hosting and preparing a menu for friends but it can be exhausting. I’m a big fan of hosting potlucks because it’s so much easier and less pressure. Everyone brings something to share. On the other hand it is sometimes nice to host a full dinner party yourself because you control everything and it feels great to serve others. As the only American in the family over here in Madrid most of the Thanksgiving responsibility is bound to fall on me even though my lovely sister in law is now the appointed pumpkin pie baker. Slowly but surely everyone is getting involved and my Thanksgiving’s over here get better each year.

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Here’s our menu.


I love Ina Garten’s Sausage and Herb Stuffing

I follow her recipe and use 4 baguettes of bread. This year I didn’t add salt to the stuffing going into the turkey because the salt from the brine would go into that. This is my number one Thanksgiving dish. I could eat these bready leftovers forever.

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The turkey is so important and causes me the most stress. Somehow I have managed not to completely screw it up over the past few years. This year we tried something new and did a brine.


For a 12-15 lb turkey.

2c sea salt

1c sugar

3 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1tbsp black pepper corns, crushed

3 sprigs rosemary, thyme and sage

2.5 gallons cold water

Mix salt in water until dissolved. Place turkey breast side down in large plastic bag. Leave in brine for 12 hours. Remove from fridge and brine one hour before roasting. Rinse turkey and drain well.

Stuff turkey. Rub with olive oil and put butter and garlic between skin and meat. Add a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme to the cavity and on legs and wings.

Add a few coils of aluminum foil to the bottom of turkey roasting pan. Place turkey on foils breast side up. Add a few cups of chicken broth to bottom of pan. Roast at 325°F (160°C) basting every 30 minutes or so. Cover with aluminum foil if it browns too quickly. Turkey is done when thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of the leg and in stuffing.

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W H I T E  W I N E  P A N  G R A V Y

Turkey drippings 2-3 cups

1c white wine

4tbsp butter

6tbsp flour

1/2 tbsp dried sage

Pour liquid from turkey pan into a large measuring cup. Place in freezer for about 10 minutes. Remove from freezer and scrape off excess fat. Heat the same turkey pan over low heat scraping off the drippings. Add 1/2c wine to deglaze pan. Add butter and melt. Add flour while whisking to make a roux. Continue whisky about five minutes until it is a nice golden brown. Add remaining wine and let it reduce down. Slowly add the broth. Continue stirring until mixture thickens. Add sage and season with salt and pepper.

G R E E N  B E A N  C A S S E R O L E

1kg green beans, fresh is better

500g cremini mushrooms, sliced

1tbsp olive oil

2tbsp butter

4 sprigs thyme

2 cans Campbells cream of mushroom soup

1 cup milk

2 cups crunchy fried onions



1/4 cup parmesan, grated

First cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain and set aside.

In a large frying pan or cast iron skillet heat olive oil. Cook mushrooms until browned on both sides. Add butter and thyme. Continue cooking until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Add soup, milk, cooked green beans and 1cup onions to pan. Mix. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake at 175°C for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining onions and cook 5-10 more minutes.

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S M A S H E D  S W E E T  P O T A T O E S

Another side we did was one that I featured a few weeks ago and it was a hit. Josemi’s father is amazing and was able to detect all of the ingredients in this dish just after having one bite.

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For dessert my sister in law always makes a classic pumpkin pie and I normally make my mom’s apple crisp. This year we got a Costco (yes, I finally went to Spain Costco and I love it) apple pie to take off some of the stress with all of the preparations.

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Genius Recipes

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This book was a Christmas gift from my sister Kristen. This is a collection of 100 recipes chosen by Food52’s executive editor Kristen Miglore. They are from various chefs and include Breakfasts, Snacks & Drinks, Soups & Salads, Meaty Mains, Meatless Mains, Vegetables and Desserts. Immediately I thought the design of the book and the photography by James Ransom was absolutely beautiful. But it took me a few months to actually try out one of these recipes. My regret is that I hadn’t begun sooner.

Every recipe is amazing. Truly GENIUS.

Thus far I have tried Michael Ruhlman’s Rosemary-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken which was to die for. The brining made the meat so flavorful and with a perfect blend of spices the breading was crispy and had just the right amount of spice. I am not a fan of working with chicken because mine always comes out dry and wrong. With this recipe you cannot go wrong. It’s foolproof.

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The next recipe that I tried was Julia Child’s Gratin of Zucchini, Rice & Onions with Cheese. Luckily this recipe makes a lot so I was enjoying these leftovers for days. I had never attempted a gratin before and was unsure of what it would be like, but you can’t go wrong with Julia Childs. Although this recipe only calls for a bit of milk and less than a cup of parmesan, it was so creamy. I’ve never had a richer zucchini dish.

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I look forward to trying more of these Genius Recipes and exploring more Food52 recipes. Maybe I’ll try Pasta with Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Puree or the Salt-Baked Herbed Salmon.

Thank you to my sister for gifting me this treasure.

Nicole & Julie & Julia

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While home for the summer I was so lucky to cook often with my grandmother. I definitely get my passion for cooking from her. I hope, one day, to be as talented and knowledgable about food as her. Now looking back I realize I was so so lucky to grow up with her just a few houses away from mine. This time I was home we spent many hours in her kitchen sipping wine and cocktails and I asked her many questions about her best recipes and favorite cookbooks.

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I was lucky to find a second hand copy Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (a cookbook I had had on my wish list for quite some time). Then my grandmother gifted me another beautiful French cookbook and “Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume II.” That night I went home and watch the 2009 film “Julie & Julia” and decided it would be crazy and impossible to try and cook all 524 recipes in one year. I don’t have this aspiration in my life but I do plan to try most of these recipes!

The first one I attempted was Julia’s Quiche Lorraine. I did this recipe while still extremely jet lagged so I couldn’t find the energy to make the crust from scratch. It seemed like a great idea at the time but was a choice that I later regretted. Next time I will follow Juilia’s recipe 100%. But even without the homemade crust, it was still the best quiche I have yet to make. I can’t wait to try more French recipes.

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Top Ingredient: COCONUT MILK

Coconut Soup & Brazilian Moqueca

Ok maybe it’s just me but I have been using a lot of coconut milk lately and really craving it.

One night while on vacation at my parents house in California they decided to leave me for the night to fend for myself. Although I love cooking I rarely cook while on vacation. Too much work and I just want to try all the restaurants and have my mom and grandmother’s food. I almost went to the local Thai place to pick up some coconut soup but decided to wing it and try to make it myself. Looked up the first recipe on Pinterest and made it my own.


2 cups water and 1 cube chicken bullion (or 2 cups chicken broth)

1 can coconut milk

1/2 eggplant

1/2 red bell pepper

1 inch fresh ginger

2 cups cremini mushrooms

1 tsp chopped lemon grass

Juice of 2 limes

Sriracha sauce



Set aside. Peel and dice the eggplant into bite size pieces. Dice the bell pepper and slice the mushrooms. Mince the ginger and chop lemon grass.Heat water to a boil with bullion. Lower to a simmer and add coconut milk, eggplant, red pepper, ginger and lemon grass. After about 15 minutes test the eggplant to check if almost fully cooked. Add mushrooms, lime juice, Sriracha to your liking, and a pinch of salt. Simmer about ten minutes. Serve using cilantro as garnish. Add more Sriracha if you like it spicy!

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The next recipe is a Brazilian dish I learned about from my good friend Lauren. She raved about how it was so good and simple. I begged her for the recipe and here it is (changed a few quantity things)! I cooked some white rice to go along with it.


1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup roasted red pepper

1 small green bell pepper

3 tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1 cup coconut milk

1 -2 tbsp Sriracha sauce

Juice of 1/2 lime

salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in saucepan or large frying pan. Sauté onion and green peppers until translucent. Add roasted red peppers and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Next add tomato, shrimp and cilantro and simmer until shrimp are almost fully pink. Add coconut milk and Sriracha sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer a few more minutes. Turn off heat and add lime juice. Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice!

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This is new.


I’ve officially moved over to I’ve been wanting to change to another blogging platform for a while now but was too lazy to do it. Forgetting my tumblr password and being blocked out of my childhood email address has caused me to be banned forever from my old blog. At first I was devastated (still kind of am) but now it’s a fresh start. It’s going to be okay. New (school) year, new blog. Although today I am really suffering from jet lag I am so excited to share the new things in my cooking life. I am now the proud owner of this beautiful Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook. This is a classic and a must have in my family, or it should be. Everyone knows and loves my grandmother’s Fannie Farmers Garden special that she cans. When I came home from a trip to Portland proud to show my mom my Powell’s books find she proclaimed “Oh I didn’t know it was a book! I just thought grandma called her garden special that.” Yep, it’s a book. Also my good friend Lauren says that Fannie Farmer has the best peanut butter cookies. If Josemi thought I cooked a lot of “American” food before he better watch out! Also here is the link to my old blog →Old Blog

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