Working for the Weekend

Friday afternoons are my very favorite time of the week. Thursdays too. Curious, I know. Living in Germany, Thursdays were always the big night for painting the town red. A proper prelude to Fridays followed by Saturdays. Wednesdays were big in my city on the Rhein as well. What can I say? The Germans know how to enjoy life. And, when in Rome…

When I moved to Germany, it was some time before I made friends. I worked at the global headquarters of a multinational organization and was one of the youngest there. No happy hours with colleagues for me. At least not at first. Not a problem. This gave me ample time to explore the in's and out's of my new country. The summer before moving to Germany, a friend of mine who had graduated from law school knew a girl living in the city that would become my new home. 

It was a pair of months into my adventure before we made this connection. Once the introductions were made, I had a new lease on life. Six years older than me, she had studied in Dusseldorf for some time and was the leader of an established group of friends. They were happy to include the 22 year old, green American in their circle.

Our Thursdays were shaped by full on spectacular albeit tame debauchery. Tours of the city’s bars and watering holes, dancing in some of Europe’s finest discotheques. We enjoyed ourselves until 4.00 or 5.00 in the morning. I walked back to my quaint flat on Orangeriestrasse as the bakers were removing loaves from ovens and the butchers were hanging their wares in windows. Upon arriving home, I would take a quick cat nap – if there was time for one – shower and get ready for work.

On Friday mornings, I regularly took the circuitous route to work. I would stop at my favorite spot for a Brötchen, which is a small German sandwich comprised of a hard roll covered in seeds and stuffed with a variety of choices. If you are ever in Germany, you can find them everywhere. Seek one or two out. They are simple, straightforward and delicious. You will be hooked for life. Guaranteed. 

My favorite selection was brie and cucumbers or aged Italian salami and romaine. I then popped into a small cafe down the street for my beloved Milchkaffee (our version of a latte though theirs are better - full fat milk makes them so). If the weather was agreeable, I walked along the Rhein to work arriving bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to tackle the day ahead. Oh the perks of youth. I don’t think post-fun headaches existed back then. My cousin in London likes to speak of his "flu like symptoms" after a night on the town.

Back to Fridays. Present day. I am not alone in relishing this day. Usually I am wrapping up the work week and looking forward to the clock striking, which indicates that it is time to get out of dodge. Also contingent upon timing, it is five o’clock somewhere.  On this day, there is the promise of an entire weekend ahead. Is there anything better?

If we don’t have anything set in ink, I meet partner-in-crime at home and we strategize our plan of attack for the night. It’s just the two of us so we focus on a place or more to grab libations. This usually determines what’s for dinner. Most Fridays we like to venture out for a bit to socialize and then return home to cook, grill and peruse the Netflix queue. Other times, we are a bit more inspiring. Maybe a trip to the movie theatre if there is anything on our lists. Perhaps we will head uptown and go dancing. The sky is the limit. Who cares about tomorrow when we can start with tonight? Fridays are simply the best.

A week ago today marked the first weekend whereby I was adhering to my 2014 modified diet. Customarily from sundown Friday to Saturday night, I give myself a bit of wiggle room in the food department. Not this past Friday however. Well I did budge a bit. We went to The Wine Shop at Foxcroft. It was a first for us both and we were most impressed. The shop had an outstanding assortment of wines and beers as well as impressive offerings by the glass. We saw multiple trays of small bites finding their way to lucky tables and all looked most creative. We sat at tallboys and enjoyed the intimate conversation around us. A lively spot for sure and we will most definitely return.

After a glass of red, two craft beers, wonderful banter and bumping into the mother of one of my brother’s best friends, the two of us headed to the grocery store. It was a bitter cold night, which meant that a certain someone would not brave the temperatures and grill our dinner. Chicken in the oven was too boring for a Friday. At least in my book. I had butternut squash in the fridge that needed eating. So I thought a warm stew whereby we could add everything save for the kitchen sink, was in order. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Butternut Squash & Turkey Stew

Please find

1 white onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 lb of organic ground turkey
2 lb of diced butternut squash (Harris Teeter sells this prepared)
4 cups of chopped kale - spinach will work too
3 green onions
1 can of cannellini beans
4 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of light coconut milk
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large sprig of rosemary
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 small dried red chili (I buy them at Healthy Home Market; they are red and very small in size)
1 bunch of cilantro chopped, stems removed
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

In your Dutch oven or big pot

1. Chop the butternut squash and throw it in a pan. Drizzle with 2 TBS olive oil, the nutmeg, sage and a dash of salt. Roast for approximately 40 minutes at 350. Again, you know your oven best. Halfway through cooking, give the squash a generous stir. It is done when everything is wonderfully caramelized. Set aside to add to the stew.

2. Chop your onion and garlic. Cuisinart, by hand, whatever works.

3. In your vessel, heat 2 TBS olive oil on medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Let them cook until they become translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes or so. Give it a stir every now and then.

4. Add the turkey as well as the additional spices – cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, red chili, pinch of salt and black pepper. Give a big stir and turn up the heat to high. Now you want to brown the meat.

5. Once the meat has browned, lower the heat back down to medium high heat. Add the roasted butternut squash and the rosemary sprig. Give everything a generous stir.

6. Now for the beans and liquids. Please add the beans, chicken stock and coconut milk. This is also a good time to throw in the kale. Another generous stir.

7. Bring the mixture to a boil and then drop the heat to low. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Put the top on and simmer for approximately 30 minutes. If you have chores, you can leave it cooking for an hour if you like. Once 30 minutes has passed, throw in the chopped cilantro and give the mix a big stir.

8. Serve in bowls with a slight drizzle of olive oil, avocado and some chopped green onions.

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