Santa came early….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Warmer.  High 80.  Sunny

STEPS:  12,197
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

The morning flew by with classes and walking.  Yet again, the only 2 brave souls in water aerobics were a fellow Minnesotan and me.  The water is still very cold.  Small world – this lady is from Rochester, MN (where we lived) and actually worked in the same department as I did at Mayo Clinic.  What are the odds?

In the afternoon, I walked to my friend’s house to help her set up her listing in Trusted Housesitters.  If travel to Hawaii is still possible, we will go with these friends in January, and they will hopefully get a housesitter for their house and cute dog. 

George surprised me with an early Christmas present.  A fire pit.  I am SO HAPPY.  Haha – he has been lusting after this fire pit at Home Depot for weeks.  Our current one is getting rusted out.

DINNER:  Two Jacques Pepin recipes:

THIRTY-MINUTE CASSOULET

Normally, I make my brother’s cassoulet recipe, but I thought I would check Jacques’s out since I have some ham to use up.

1 T olive oil
1 pound ham diced
4 bratwurst sausages
3/4 cup hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
1 cup diced mushrooms
3/4 cup diced onion
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp thyme
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato diced
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp pepper
3 T chopped parsley

For serving – Tabasco and  Dijon mustard

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the ham and sausage.  Cover and cook for 8 minutes, turning occassionally.  Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.  Mix well and cook for 6 minutes.  Add the beans, tomato, water, and pepper.  Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and boil gently for 5 minutes.

At serving time, discard the bay leaf, and arrange on a platter.  Sprinkle the parsley on top..  Serve with tabasco and Dijon. 

This was super easy and tasty. 

I had some asparagus leftover from a previous Jacques recipe, so looked to him again for inspiration….

ASPARAGUS CUSTARDS

1 # asparagus, tough ends removed
1 garlic clove crushed
3 eggs
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2  tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 T butter at room temperature

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in an ovenproof skillet.  Add the asparagus, bring the water back to a boil, and cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and place the asparagus on a cutting board.  Set the skillet aside.

Cut off the top 3 inches of the asparagus and set aside to use for garnishing.  Cut the remaining stalks into 1-inch pices and put them in a food processor along with the garlic.  Process for 10 seconds.  Add the eggs, cream, most of the salt, and pepper.  Process for 10 seconds

Heat the oven to 350.  Using about 1/2 T of the butter, butter four small custard cups.  Divide the asparagus mixture among the molds and arrange them in the reserved skillet with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the cups.

Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the custards are set.  Remove the cups from the water bath and rest for 10 minutes.

Split the reserved asparagus tips lengthwise, put them in a skillet and add the remaining dash of salt and the remaining 1.5 T butter.  Heat gently in the skillet on top of the stove. 

At serving time, unmold the custards and arrange the asparagus tips on top.  Serves 4

This was a beautiful presentation.  (Darn – I forgot to take a picture!)  It was pretty bland, though.  I think I would suggest adding some parmesan or hot sauce to it.

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