Archive | November 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes

This year I’m lucky to be celebrating two Thanksgivings; one with my family in New York and one in Oregon with my love’s family. We all feel so very thankful to have this opportunity this year! As we’ve all grown up and moved away, getting together to celebrate the holidays has proven very difficult with all of our schedules, so for it to work out this time, well, let’s just say we are “gobbling up” every second together!

With my new-found hobby of cooking, my mom didn’t hesitate for a list of what I’m contributing for Thanksgiving dinner. And she’s right to ask because I had a list that could have fed a party of 50! I’ve gathered recipes all over the place; libraries, internet, magazines, and cookbooks. Everything looks so delicious and I actually feel confident that I could pull off something successful. Just one hint for you while gathering recipes: don’t do it when you’re hungry. I swear my list would’ve been done faster if I wasn’t searching on an empty stomach. 🙂

So here’s a list of recipes I’m contributing for Thanksgiving #1:

Appetizers

Carmelized Onion & Apple Tarts with Gruyère

Apple Cranberry Sage Bites

Baked Stuffed Shrimp (from America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Recipe Magazine)

Sides

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Desserts

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake

As I write this, I’m staring at my very first cheesecake, the Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe from my sister-in-law, and it looks delish! It’s sitting in the fridge until tomorrow, so the final results won’t be until I try to slice & serve it for dessert. I have a feeling that no matter how it looks, it will taste divine!

 

Recipes I’m contributing for Thanksgiving #2:

Appetizers

Choice of Roquefort or Goat Cheese, Dry Salami and Arugula on Milton’s Multi-Grain crackers

Shrimp Cocktail

Sides

Mashed Potatoes with Gruyère

Roasted Root Vegetables with Maple Syrup

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Buttermilk biscuits

Dessert

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake

 

What are you making for Thanksgiving dinner?

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Fall Foods Recipe #6: Stuffed Acorn Squash

My love’s father gave us a humongous Acorn Squash the he grew in his garden this year. Let me tell you, this was not love at first sight for me. For some reason, I’ve always walked deliberately in the opposite direction of this popular squash. Is it the namesake? Or the dark, forest green color?  The shape that makes the thought of trying to cut into it giving me anxiety already? I don’t know… I just never wanted to eat it, buy it, or touch it. And it’s funny because I love butternut squash!

Whatever the reason, I now had to get over it fast as I wouldn’t want to upset his father by refusing it. And I’m sure he’s going to ask what I made with it the next time I see him!

My trusty internet research brought me to a savory version that was sure to get us both eating such a traditional Fall food. Isn’t that the point of this food blog anyway? Check it out:

Doesn’t it look good?!?!

Here’s the breakdown: I roasted the squash with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt & pepper at 375 degrees, for about 35 minutes. While that was roasting, I was sauteing red onions & garlic in a tomato paste mixture on the stove, eventually adding in sausage, white beans, and spinach (leftover from the night before). After taking the squash out of the oven, I scooped the stuffing into the “cradle” I made inside the squash (before roasting) and topped it off with a Parmesean-bread crumb-olive oil mixture. I switched the oven to “broil” and put the squash back in for a couple of minutes to brown.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • 1 medium acorn squash, halved (see Tip) and seeded
  • 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 sausage link (your choice of spice & meat!), diced in small bites.
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup coarse dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut a small slice off the bottom of each squash half so it rests flat. Brush the insides with 1 teaspoon oil; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place in a 9-by-13-inch (or similar-size) baking dish and put in the oven to roast for 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven. You can check it at 30 minutes by poking it with a fork for a tender center.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring, until starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in water, tomato paste and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add in sausage and cook until brown if fresh, or thawed if frozen. Stir in spinach, cover and cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in white beans, cooking until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Remove from the heat.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat broiler.

Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl. Fill each squash half with about 1 cup of the stuffing mixture. Place back in the baking dish. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Broil in the center of the oven until the breadcrumbs are browned, 1 to 2 minutes.

Tip:  To make it easier to cut a pumpkin, acorn squash or other winter squash: pierce in several places with a fork; microwave on High for 45 to 60 seconds. Use a large sharp knife to cut in half. Remove the seeds and stringy fibers with a spoon. For this dish in particular, I scooped out enough to make a bowl so I could add more stuffing and have it stay in there.

Adapted from here.

Pasta Puttanesca

I put tonight’s dinner together in the 11th hour and it turned into an absolutely delicious Italian pasta dish – Puttanesca. This is a great fix for those nights when you realize your pantry has been filled with nothing “instant” – only ingredients to make everything from scratch.

Pasta is always an easy answer in these times, and after seeing Martha make Puttanesca on her show today, the powers that be started working their magic in my kitchen. I added in sun dried tomatoes for more flavor, as well as some spinach so I can get my veggie serving. This is great for a quick-fix meal and leftovers are already packed away for tomorrow’s lunch! Yummy goodness, I tell ya!

Pasta Puttanesca

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound bow-tie pasta
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 3 anchovies, rinsed (optional)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 -2 cups baby spinach
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt boiling water and return to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies, if desired, mashing with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and their juice.  Stir in olives and sun dried tomatoes. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Let simmer until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. If sauce gets thick, you can spoon in some pasta water to thicken it up a bit. Stir in spinach and allow to wilt down. Add pasta to skillet and season with salt and pepper; toss to combine, and serve with fresh Parmesan on top.

Adapted from here.

Adventures with Broiche

Yesterday I spent the better part of the day as a slave to yeast, milk, flour, eggs, and butter. It was what later became a “day trip” into the world of making bread, specifically, Brioche. After 24 hours and two batches, I just pulled out what could be considered Brioche, given I’ve never actually seen it in person or tasted it before!

The day all started when I watched a new Martha Stewart show, “Martha Bakes”, on my DVR. The focus was Brioche, three different ways. I was so inspired watching her (she makes EVERYTHING look so easy!) that I decided I could try this. Upon printing out her recipe from the website, I began noticing many disadvantages for me, but they didn’t stop me.

The first was that her measurements for yeast and flour were in ounces, which was foreign to my measuring cups. The second was that her recipe was for 2 loaves, and there was no way I was going to use all those ingredients and not have the dough rise or something. The third, and most obvious for me, was that I don’t have the infamous KitchenAid mixer. Without this machine, I would not be able to mix the dough exactly to what was needed, as my arms only have so much juice left in them after my pilates bootcamp class.

Finally, the fourth disadvantage was the unfamiliar territory of yeast – I think I successfully made one loaf of white sandwich bread years ago, after many failed attempts. When my yeast doesn’t “proof” or wake-up and get moving, I take it personally. I killed the yeast. I’m a bad, bad, bad person.

With all these listed to the side of the recipe as a last-ditch attempt, I made the decision to accept the challenge and forge through the rough terrain to see what happens in the end. Who knows- maybe it will actually work! (I didn’t have any other plans for the day anyway)

The first batch I threw into the garbage disposal because it was a watery mess, only to realize through the second batch that I just converted the flour in ounces to cup wrong. For the second batch, I actually made up two yeast packages, for when one of them didn’t work. I felt like a scientist! I had the thermometer out measuring the temperature of the milk every 5 seconds until it was just right, blended the yeast in, and watched it grow a few inches from my face. I also learned from the first batch that if you’re using yeast and other liquid ingredients, the “others” need to be the same temperature so that the yeast doesn’t die when added in. For example, if the dough calls for 3 eggs, make sure they are room temperature, which can take a few hours. The same for butter. That means if you want to make homemade bread, you must plan ahead of time.

By the time everything was alive and growing, the adventure had been 2 hours in and was just getting started. I poured the dough into a bowl, covered, and let it rise while enjoying our Sunday evening together. The only thing that worried me was the dough was less of a doughy “mass” and more of a doughy “mess”. But it was still rising, so we decided to go through with it and see what surprise will be waiting for us. Before going to bed I put it in the fridge and silently prayed that it would be “something” I could bake in the morning.

7Am. All is well.

I divided it up into 8 balls, placed in baking dish, and let it rise. AGAIN. This bread needs a lot of lovin’!

Two hours later it had risen, and off to the oven it goes. The egg wash on top gives a very nice golden color and after a short 16 minutes of baking, the internal temp was spot on 205 degrees and the coloring deepened very nicely. My only hesitation was it hadn’t risen very much in the first few minutes being in the oven. It was far from Martha’s pretty loaf. But it was looking good inside; moist, fluffy, and buttery.

Having never tasted Brioche before, I didn’t know what to expect. There was a very prominent “yeasty” flavor – almost salty. However, with a little butter & jam, you couldn’t tell! I think it’s safe to say that I cooked a Brioche loaf!

Recipe from here.

Pumpkin Pie Cookies

Wow.

This tiny word packs a lot of punch when used to describe food, and these pumpkin pie cookies sure do deliver a knock-you-on-your-knees flavor.

With a cake-like texture, these treats come just in time for those overloaded from Halloween and needing something new to think about. Today is November 1st, leaving us with only 23 days before we indulge our palates and afternoon naps with a Thanksgiving feast.  That means recipes must be gathered now, so you can buy ingredients over the next 3 weeks and have ample time to rest up before the messy, frazzled, beat-the-clock day arrives.

Back to these oh-so-sweet-and-fulfilling treats.

The inspiration came from all of the recipes I’ve been seeing that include pumpkin. Okay, I’ll admit it…. I wanted in on the newest fad! I was also inspired by fellow blogger, Joy the Baker, who made these. Originally I was going to add in some oatmeal to see if they could be a hearty cookie, but that didn’t work out in the oven like it did in my head. Never one to give up, I had some leftover dough where butterscotch chips and oatmeal had yet to be added in, and decided to nix them altogether and add a little more pumpkin, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, hoping to mimic a pumpkin pie flavor. Finally, to make them a healthy and guilt-free cookie, I threw in some wheat germ and flax-seed powder. That is completely optional, but I do believe they only added to the flavors!

So I dolloped them onto the baking sheet, stuck them in the oven, and sat down and prayed – prayed that I could come up with something for all the time I was spending in the kitchen that sunny day. I was delighted to find out about 14-16 minutes later that……..  they worked fantabulously!  (is that even a word??)

I was so pleased with the moist dough, spiced-up flavors, and the pumpkin color that I believe I found my replacement for actual pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. That means no crust, no icky textures, and no worrying about where the heck I’m going to store the pie in the fridge until we serve it. The only thing I may add is a drizzle of Royal Icing over each cookie for a little extra zaz! (is this a word, too?)  Or, I was thinking of making some homemade whipped cream and putting a dollop on a plate so guests can “dip” their pumpkin pie cookie in it for the full effect!

Combined with my homemade apple jalousie, the dessert table is not one to be missed this year. Wish you could join us!

 

Pumpkin Pie Cookies

  • 2 cups unbleached white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp. wheat germ
  • 1 Tbsp. flax-seed powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place a rack in the middle of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper.

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing.  On low-speed, mix the oil, pumpkin, wheat germ, and vanilla until blended.  Mix in the flour mixture a little at a time.

Scoop mounds of the dough (approx. 2 Tbsp. in size) onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2-inches apart.  Use a knife or thin metal spatula to smooth and flatten the rounds.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 15 minutes, depending on your oven.  Cool them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust the cooled cookies lightly with powdered sugar, drizzle with Royal Icing, or serve as-is with a side of whipped cream.  The cookies could be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days and can easily be sent home with your guests!

Adapted from here.