Holiday Preview

Every year, on or about July 1st, my youngest sister texts to let me know that it’s begun. Christmas music has entered her life via every streaming device in her possession — and sometimes, simply within her reach. Gloating immediately follows. She has beaten me to the chase in welcoming the holiday season yet again.

Yes, our season lasts six months. Yes, we are both fully grown adults. We believe that if you can’t have a little fun in life, you’re missing the point. Part of that fun is extending the holiday season. You may therefore be surprised to hear that we’re both late to the party this year. Aside from noting that Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas starts during my birthday week (huzzah!), we’ve failed to advance much further. I count this among our greatest missed opportunities for 2018.

Meanwhile, the holiday season as observed by our saner compatriots draws closer by the day. In Manhattan, preparations have already begun — or so says Husband, who keeps tabs on these things for me now that my base of operations is Long Island. It feels strange that this season I won’t watch the windows come alive daily. In that sense, it’s like I’m in college again, when we’d wait until finals week to go see the city lit up with holiday cheer.

But waiting has always been my problem. I have a forward drive that cannot be stopped. Why, only last week I was struck with full holiday season readiness. By this I mean a strong appetite for cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and the infamous, once-a-year Johnny Appleseed grace we kids grew accustomed to back home. By December, this will give way to an insatiable desire for three more things: a dusting of snow, an overabundance of brightly colored lights, and the scrawniest fir tree you can possibly find.

Alas, here we are. It’s the end of October and none of these things are to be found. Pounds of candy and what feels like a million door-bell-startled dog barks stand between me and the most wonderful time of the year. What gets me through? First, hiding or giving away ALL the candy that questionably-dressed children don’t gorge themselves on by Halloween. Then I’ll run, full tilt, toward all things resembling my preferred holidays. The trick is to give this behavior creative names so it seems like I’m well-mannered and definitely not an impatient winter shrew.

P.S. did we just find my Halloween costume? I think we did. Dibs!

The “holiday preview” meal that inspired this post is absolutely one of those immediately gratifying acts. I’m mentally skipping ahead one month. Who said we have to be bound by the calendar of socially acceptable celebration? Not me! Granted, we can’t go around doing whatever we want all the time, but I have noticed that creating opportunities for happiness, however small, goes a long way in life. That’s why, last week, Husband and I did the unthinkable. We prepared a seasonally inappropriate meal. Just one dish. Just one night. Just for the two of us. Just because. (And yeah, also because my holiday season has been here for quite awhile…).

Give the recipe a read — maybe it’s something to try when we’re all properly yule logging, caroling, and eggnogging the night away in a few short weeks!

The Eats Deets:

Recipe: Spiced Wine-Braised Short Ribs (slightly edited) from Midwest Living. I added a few more carrots than the recipe called for and threw in a pack of mushrooms for good measure.

Yield: Eight short ribs + the fixings.

Time: Half hour prep / three hour cook time.

Materials: Dutch oven, good knife, tongs. Also, if you can count it here, patience.

Pros: Your house will smell like the holidays, eliminating the need for potpourri. Also, it’s a one-pot meal that gets better the next day. And there’s wine. Need I say more?

Cons: This is not a dish for those short on time. I’d advise saving it for a weekend! Please also note that your neighbors may spontaneously show up when the scent of your A+ homemaking wafts down the street. This means your house should be clean before you start cooking. And yeah, go ahead and set out a couple more plates while you’re at it.

Would you make it again? Yes. I might wait until it’s a bit colder, but it’s a definite yes from us. We enjoyed this meal so much that silence descended upon our house from the time I plated dishes until the time Husband lovingly cleared the table. We are never silent during supper. It was just that good.

The Eats Story:

Sorry folks, I cheated and told the story first this time. But you get it. I look forward to the holidays. I sometimes eat seasonally inappropriate foods. I find joy in little things like sharing a meal with people I love. It’s not rocket science. But it matters.

And it matters for you, too. If not this recipe, this month, or this act of self care, then I hope you come to find and practice whatever makes you happy and whole, in the presence of others who support you. Get out there and find whatever makes your hearts and bellies full. I’d call that a win in any season.

The Eats Results:

As I await news from my sister that I’ve lost yet another holiday text competition, please enjoy these photos of our dinner — which could be your next meal in approximately 3.5 hours!

xoxo, 

Ryan

North by North Carolinian

northxnc_3.13.18

Full concept and content by Ryan Vale McGonigle

 

 

Banana Bars

Hey friends.

So remember when I said the nice weather wouldn’t last on Long Island? Well, I was right … for the wrong reasons. Gone are the days of 80 and sunny, replaced by 60s and rainy, rather than the insufferably hot and humid days I expected. Outdoor activities are still not a great idea. Know what is? An Eating Noms post! Get ready to expand your belt loops, folks. This one’s worth it!

The Eats Deets:

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Banana Bars (slightly edited), from Butter with a Side of Bread.

Yield: 24 bars, but we’ll see how long that lasts….

Time: 30 minutes

Materials: Mixing device, baking sheet, oven, and the ingredients!

Pros: Simple ingredient list and directions, easily customizable, makes the house smell a-ma-zing.

Cons: You gotta love bananas (I do!) because they’re super flavor-forward.

Would you make it again? Would? Will. This recipe is delicious and is a great way to give some love to those bananas no one buys at the store because they’re not bright green. We all have the power to make small, impactful choices, peeps. Don’t let good food go to waste.

The Eats Story:

We had a bunch (ha! see what I did there?) of really ripe bananas in the house. We also had some Hershey’s nuggets in the freezer (frozen chocolate = the best chocolate). And as you may have guessed from the last Eating Noms post, we usually have flour and brown sugar. I just needed to find a recipe that would pull this goodness together. Enter: Butter with a Side of Bread.

I mentioned above that I slightly edited their recipe. Here’s what differed: I swapped chopped nugget bars for chocolate chips. I also left the cinnamon out and used one less banana because I only had four on-hand. They were still so, so good. I’m not sure the recipe needs either ingredient, but hey, go wild! And while you’re at it, you might consider adding other ingredients like walnuts or almonds, because again, this recipe has loads of potential for personalization.

The Eats Results:

So, when I hear the term “bar” in reference to food, I tend to think of something crunchier than what we ended up with. They’re not really like a cookie or cake, either, so I guess we can still call them bars with a straight face. Just wanted to give the heads-up for anyone who has a “texture thing” or is a “bar purist.”

Meanwhile, just look at how delicious these babies are! I wish I could show you how good they smell — alas, the internet isn’t that sophisticated yet. You’ll just have to make them to find out for yourself.

Let me know what you think!

xoxo,

Ryan

North by North Carolinian

northxnc_3.13.18

Full concept and content by Ryan Vale McGonigle

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Recently I discovered the joy of baking.

Most recent attempt: brown sugar pound cake. The recipe I followed didn’t come from my mom, or her mom, or anyone’s mom for that matter. It came from the back of a cardboard box.

As a self-respecting Southerner I should probably be ashamed to admit that. But as a new baker, forging new traditions in a new place, the recipe on the back of a Domino Light Brown Sugar box suited me just fine.

I followed this recipe to a T and it was delicious. What made it even better? An overnight stay in the fridge — covered, of course — and then sliced thick with a dollop of whipped cream and a generous portion of strawberries.

Have another toppings suggestion, or another pound cake recipe to try?

Send them this way!

xoxo,

Ryan

North by North Carolinian

northxnc_3.13.18

Full concept and content by Ryan Vale McGonigle