Carrots and Parsnips and Pretzels– Oh my!

Thanksgiving is a huge affair at my mother-in-law’s, and it’s taken me a few years to get used to that! Now I enjoy it– but at first it was overwhelming. Actually, towards the end, it still is a little bit! Last night, too tired to even wrangle my kid back into her shoes and sweater, I sought refuge in the TV room, where a cousin was on the computer and my husband was surfing the net on his phone. I guess I’m not the only one who gets sensory overload! Our kid, however, was running around like a Berserker with my three year old niece, a three year old family friend, and my toddler nephew. Cutest gang of hoodlums ever.

It was like Our Gang, but about 80 years later.

I took two things to Thanksgiving. I usually do sweet potatoes, but someone else beat me to it this year! So I brought carrots and parsnips, and pretzels. They were a hit, and I admit I was surprised by that, since the pretzels were rye (and a lot of people don’t like rye). As for the carrots and parsnips, parsnips have a bit of a stigma attached to them, don’t they?

And of course, since it’s me, I only followed the recipes up to a point.

A few weeks ago, I had a knitting get-together at my house. I called it The Tipsy Knitters, and like a Venn diagram there was a circle of knitters, a circle of tipsy, and an intersecting section where there tipsy and knitting coexisted. It was fun! I’m going to try it again after the brunt of the holidays are over. Who has time for anything right now? There are Christmas parties, dreaded grading and finals and the turning in of grades (which is like taxes for teachers), and on top of that I’m trying to get all my paperwork in order so I can go back to school. I’ll be lucky if I know my own name at the end of that.

Oh! And I probably should change my name, actually. I’ve been married ten years, and I still haven’t done that. Why? That’s a subject for another post.

Anyway, at The Tipsy Knitters one of my friends brought some amazing pretzels, and while they didn’t exactly go like hotcakes during the party– as soon as everybody was gone my husband and kidlet demolished them. Gone. My husband used his finger to catch crumbs and bits of cheese (she had brought parmesan to adhere to the pretzel’s top). That’s the kind of recipe you just have to ask for a copy of.

She used this Martha Stewart recipe. It’s from 1996– a classic in Martha Stewart-land! Here are my changes:

— My dough did not double in size after an hour, but it didn’t seem to matter. Perhaps my dough didn’t rise as much because…

— I replaced two cups of all-purpose flour with one cup of barley and one cup of rye.

— I replaced the rest of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat.

— I replaced sprinkled salt with caraway seeds on half of them and poppy seeds on the other half.

The recipe calls for 5-6 cups of flour and I used only five. Keep in mind that whole wheat and whole grain flours in general tend to be a lot drier and denser– so when I mixed it up, a spoon was pretty useless right away, and there was a lot of hand kneading to be done. I think this would have worked well in my breadmaker, too, but I was making something else in there. Perhaps it would have risen better in there? Things usually do– that’s why I got it in the first place!

And last, rye lends itself well to mustard, so I pinched some of my mother-in-law’s mustard– she has a ton of the stuff, since she doesn’t actually use it herself– and put it in a cup next to the pretzels. Sitting next to my plate was another plate, brought by my aunt, that had pita chips and a dip. The pretzels tasted really good in her dip! I don’t know the exact proportions of that (will snoop around on the internet and maybe change this to a link) but it had almonds, olive oil, roma tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and parsley. It was all pulsed together and it rivals hummus in sheer awesomeness.

The other thing I made were carrots and parsnips. I used this recipe from an older Bon Appetit and once again I altered it. Here are my changes:

— With the butter, I tossed in two chopped stalks of green onions and the rosemary, since it was dried rosemary.

— I cut the vegetables into slanted coins, rather thick, to preserve a little bit of texture.

— I added a scant 1/4 cup of water and covered the parsnips at first, until they were going pretty well. Then I lifted the lid to let the water-butter-honey liquid reduce a bit.

— I sauteed the parsnips first, since they are more fibrous than a carrot, and I didn’t want the carrots to go mushy while waiting for the parsnips to be ready. When the parsnips were done, I put them into the serving bowl, covered it with a plate, then started over in the same pan with butter, green onions, and rosemary. Once the carrots were done, I tumbled them together.

This painting is from 1731 (Willem van Mieris), but parsnips still look the same.

I used about six large carrots and six parsnips– and it made way more than I had thought it would! It ended up filling a large mixing bowl. Parsnips have a bit of a reputation, so I was sure I would be taking home leftovers and making carrot-parsnip soup today. Nope! When I went into the kitchen at the end of the night, the bowl had been scraped clean. And during dinner, to my surprise, this was the first time many people had even tried parsnips! But they looked attractive, so people gave them a go. Yay for root vegetables!

As for reading, I’ve finished Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger for the umpteenth time. I’m using it to internalize her plotting, her red herrings– all the structural things. Let’s face it, Agatha Christie, whether you are into mysteries or not (I am, in a big way, so perhaps I am just the teensiest bit biased, sure) was a plotting genius. Sustaining impetus in a plot is my weakest axlerod, so I’m using her as a tonic. Whoa, mixed metaphor alert! Oh well. It’s the day after Thanksgiving, so give me a break.

I think my NaNoWriMo run has ended. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to do that at the beginning of the holiday season? But I did get to over 11,000 words, and I’ve just started Chapter Four– which is quite often the point at which I start something new. This time, however, while I am a bit stuck, I’ve no intention of abandoning it, and as soon as I grade a small stack of papers I’m going to plunge back in, for better or for worse. Hopefully for worse. Right now, I am trying to make things even more dire for my two main characters, and that is where I am stuck.

As for music, yesterday, while I was making pretzels and the kidlet was making cards and drawings and collages for some of her relatives, I made a Spotify playlist out of the albums I used to listen to when I was little. Luckily, I recognized the album covers because I wasn’t too sure about some of the titles. Those records are long gone. I have some of them as CDs, but even those are buried in the garage, or on our computer that died. So thank goodness for Spotify, even if it is apparently bringing about some kind of musical apocalypse. The kidlet sang and hummed along to Linda Ronstadt, Harry Nilsson, Creedence, The Rolling Stones, and Janis Joplin. I hadn’t heard that Linda Ronstadt album in decades, and was surprised to find myself remembering whole entire songs. It was a refreshing change after listening to new stuff so much. It was like turning on the AM radio– if AM even sounded like that anymore.

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