Thanksgiving 2016

This year, we spent Thanksgiving in Baltimore at the home of some close friends who have hosted us before. They always put on a delicious spread, and this year we we contributed several dishes to the meal.

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon – Our hosts had identified this as a possible side, and since it was going to allow me to use the slicer blade on my food processor, which I hadn’t used yet, we chose this as one of our dishes. With the food processor to do the slicing, this was a very quick and easy dish to prepare. It’s important to note, though, that while three pounds of brussels sprouts may not look like a lot in your basket at the grocery store, it turns into quite a bit once shredded. I did four pounds, which was too much (almost 4 quarts once prepared). Note also that you’ll need a huge skillet to cook these, and it’s probably worth doing a couple of batches (I did, and it worked well). These were a tasty addition to the plate, and one nice thing about them is that they’re good served room temp or slightly warmed – no need to fight for oven or burner space at the last moment.

Cranberry Parker House Rolls – I chose to make these because it’d been a while since I’d made bread, and I knew I’d have the time to devote to fussing with something that needed to rise – especially since I could prep them and then allow them to sit overnight before baking. I was very careful in making these – made sure the eggs, butter and milk were all at room temperature – and used my stand mixer, which makes things a snap. The dough was pliable and easy to work with, and the rolls turned out delicious! There are a couple of important things to know about this recipe, though, and had I read the comments ahead of time instead of mid-stream, I would have made some adjustments. 

First, as written, it makes way too much cranberry butter – I had two cups left over. You can easily halve that. Second, this recipe has you make sandwiches with little rounds of dough and the cranberry butter, which was easy enough, but messy. Luckily, not so much that I have a pool of burned butter in my oven, but a fair amount of the cranberry butter oozed out of the rolls. 

As it was, I altered the construction method and did something I spotted in the comments – weigh the dough and then portion it out by weight – which worked pretty well. But next time, I’d like to try an entirely different method. Traditionally, Parker House Rolls are folded in half, baked all together in a pan, and then pulled apart to serve. I think I will try either following the traditional construction method, brushing with cranberry butter instead of regular melted butter, or perhaps try making individual rolls in muffin tins, but instead of the sandwhich method, do one larger piece of dough twisted into a balloon type shape with the cranberry butter in the middle. 

Pecan Pie – Last but not least, Handsome made this pecan pie recipe. This was absolutely delicious and I am sad there are no more leftovers. If you make the dough and toast the nuts ahead of time, it seems like it’d be pretty quick to prep on baking day. 

Individual Sour Cherry Crumbles

I’m not much of a pie baker, so I knew I’d be doing something else with the sour cherries we got in our farmshare yesterday. I had enough to make a small crumble, but I didn’t have a pan small enough. Luckily, I do have four ramekins! You could probably also do this in a muffin tin.

I based what I did off of a recipe on epicurious. A couple of reviews noted that as written, it was too salty, and the vanilla extract seemed out of place. I halved the recipie and modified it quite a bit, taking into account the reviews and also changing it to use what I had on hand. You could just use your favorite crumble topping, instead. Here’s what I did for the topping:

  • 1/4 cup each whole wheat, bread, and all purpose flours
  • 2.5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter (this combines the butter the recipie has you mix in, as well as the butter you’re supposed to dot on top of the filling, which I omitted)

I mushed this up with my hands, no need to bother with a mixer! This makes for crumbles that have a lot more crumble than fruit. Depending on your preference, you might want to halve this again.

For the cherry filling, omitted the salt and used almond extract instead of vanilla. 
I also took a 1/4 cup of almonds and chopped them fine. As I was adding the crumble on top of the cherries, I sprinkled the almonds in, making sure there were some on top. 

These still needed the full time in the oven – just bake them until the filling starts to bubble up a bit and the crumble has set. 

Recent Recipes

Kale & Roasted Vegetable Soup – This was so, so delicious – easily the best vegetable soup I’ve made in a while. I made it two weeks in a row, and I am rationing out the portions in the freezer. The secret is in the roasting. The onion, garlic and tomato that form the base of the soup are roasted (along with some of the other veggies), then pureed and added to the soup. This gives the broth an amazing depth of flavor. Do not skip this step or substitute canned tomatoes (even the fire roasted kind) as it won’t be the same. To speed things up a bit, while the veggies were roasted I pulled together the broth, kale, thyme and bay leaf and started to heat it. You could also roast the veggies in advance, and keep them in the fridge until soup night.

Smoky Charred Cauliflower and Potato Soup with Kale – This did not turn out very well, and I’m not sure if it was me, or if it was the recipe. I didn’t have russets, so I used a different kind of potato, and they sucked up all the broth. I would recommend either doing half the amount of potato, or increasing the broth. That said, I also found the base to be pretty bland. I tinkered with it quite a bit, adding chili powder, bouillon and salt until it had some taste. I may try making this again and omitting the potato altogether.

Roasted Squash Salad – Tasty and easy, and something I’ve made before. I subbed cider for OJ in the dressing as that’s what I had on hand. Overall you can think of this as a template rather than a recipe.

Pasta with Cauliflower and Bacon – This is from the March/April 2014 Cook’s Illustrated – sort of a pasta carbonara with sauteed cauliflower added in. It came together very quickly, so a great weeknight meal. Plus, it was particularly pretty with the purple cauliflower I’d gotten. Two skeptical cauliflower eaters enjoyed this meal, so that’s a pretty good endorsement right there. A half recipe made two big servings. You could make a half batch of this and use it as a side if you are so inclined.

Slow-Cooked Broccoli Soup with Garlic and Olive Oil – This was just ok, nothing special. Joy the Baker’s Broccoli and Arugula Soup is a better bet. I think I’ll stick with that.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake – I attempted to make this for Handsome’s annual tiki party. (Interested in the drink menu?) I wound up turning it into pineapple upside down cake shots. There were two issues. First, the cake wasn’t done when I pulled it out and flipped it out of the pan, something I couldn’t quite tell because I didn’t have a long enough cake tester. I wasn’t sure I could flip it back into the pan. And in any case, second, the pan was a tart pan that had failed and leaked all over the bottom of Handsome’s oven. (Yes, I knew I shouldn’t use a tart pan for this. I lined it with foil, it almost worked. No, neither one of us has an appropriately sized cake pan. No, I don’t know why I didn’t put a cookie sheet in there right away. Yes, his oven is very clean now. No, it was surprisingly easy to clean up.) Anyway. I pulled apart the whole shebang and re-baked the cake part in mini-muffin tins, and then shoved them into little shot glasses with bits of pineapple. It worked out pretty well and people seemed to like them.

That last one is actually my second Smitten Kitchen cake disaster (the first was with this). Both failures are entirely on me. I think this other one was the recipe where I accidentally punched the oven clean button while trying to turn on the oven light early in the baking, panicked, and then turned the oven off entirely without realizing it. After re-baking, significant portions were stuck to the pan and/or burned. Good times! This will not stop me from attempting future Smitten Kitchen cakes. (Maybe I’ll even buy an actual cake pan. Or two!)




Recent Recipes – Internet Edition

Fresh Corn Salad – I’ve got another go-to corn salad recipe that I really like, but this was coming to a party featuring lobster rolls, and so I wanted something a little simpler. This fit the bill and was a big hit.

Broccoli Quiche with Gruyere and Cheddar – Super yummy, and a great way to use up some broccoli that is perhaps a little wilty. I threw in a little bit of diced linguica that I happened to have on hand, but it didn’t necessarily need the addition.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins – Made by request as part of a barter for a ride. Very easy and yummy, as is to be expected from Smitten Kitchen.

Overnight Oats – I eat oatmeal almost every day, but it does feel a little weird sometimes in the summer. I thought I would try doing overnight oats – oatmeal combined with milk and yogurt, and let to sit overnight in the fridge. This softens it up and the yogurt ups the protein. Mainly I was interested to see if I’d feel full for longer with these, but that didn’t seem to be the case. I looked at a ton of recipes but used the one linked above as my starting point. I combined:

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 cup rolled, old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup plain regular yogurt
  • 2 cups milk

This worked out pretty well, though it was a little too wet – if I do it again I might cut the milk back to 1 cup to start, and then add a little more the next day if it seems to need it. That said, I’m not sure I’ll make them again. It’s even easier to make steel cut oats in my little crockpot and these weren’t good enough that I’ve felt compelled to make them again, especially as I lately I don’t have milk and regular yogurt around consistently.

Recent Recipes – Internet Edition

Summer Squash and White Bean Saute – Doesn’t sound like anything special, but the trick here is the vinegar at the end. Turns the whole thing into something utterly delicious. I had it over pasta because I didn’t have patience for brown rice. I did add some broccoli in, which in retrospect was not a good idea – it adds a bitterness to the dish that is out of place.

Spring Roll in a Bowl – I added some fried tofu for protein. I prepped everything except the noodles ahead of time and just assembled lunches individually throughout the week, worked out great. I made this peanut sauce from Bon Appetit to use with it, super yummy!

Thai Curry Vegetable and Tofu Soup – Yummy and pretty easy to put together. Even redeems snow peas that have been in your fridge a bit too long…ahem.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Improved – The Gentleman Caller is very deliberately furthering his culinary skills this year, and made this recently. I sous cheffed and provided baking supplies and equipment. It was delicious and turned out beautifully. (Why did I think I didn’t like rhubarb?) It was also a reminder that for someone who’s willing to put in the time and effort, a well-written recipe is all you need. We’ve cooked together enough that he knows the place to go is Smitten Kitchen, which is where this is from. He also used Deb’s pie crust, no vodka. This was the part that really impressed me, the crust was amazing (though definitely best fresh out of the oven) and he did a phenomenal job working with the dough. I clearly need to get a bigger and better pie pan to encourage further baking of pies in my kitchen.

Buttermilk Biscuits – One of those recipes you pick because you have everything (or substitutions) on hand, and need something for your strawberries. I did these as drop biscuits because the dough was so wet, and they spread quite a bit. Not sure what happened there, but as I like to say – I’m a Yankee, I don’t know from biscuits.

Broccoli Arugula Soup – Delish, and a great way to use up broccoli and greens that have gotten a little wilty in your fridge. Great with a dollop of sour cream swirled in. As I recall I went a little heavy on the lemon, which was good.

Crunchy Pear and Celery Salad – Brought to a party recently. I thought this was quite yummy, and it was easy to throw together. I messed with it of course – extra celery (eight total stalks I believe, I started with five and then added more at the end until it looked OK to me), one big pink lady apple instead of pears, and untoasted walnuts. Yummy and light. Rather than dicing the cheese finely, I’d say to make it something more in line with the size of the apple/pear dice.

Zucchini Garlic Soup – Oh man, was this ever delicious. I had exactly 1.5 pounds of zucchini and I found that it did turn into a nice creamy texture. Make sure you use a good quality, flavorful stock for this. If you substitute water, you’re going to lose a lot of flavor, so just keep that in mind and perhaps throw in some other seasonings to make up for it. Anyway I will definitely make this again.

Recent Recipes – Cookbooks Edition

Quick Tagine-Style Chicken with Couscous
This is from a tiny little Rachael Ray cookbook called Top 30 30-Minute Meals. I’ve made it before and it’s quite good – a very flavorful and easy dish to pull together, and it reheats great for lunch. I like the dried fruit in it.

Sesame-spiced turkey meatballs
Smashed chickpea salad with lemon and sumac

These two are both from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, where they’re paired together. They were a great meal for a family dinner night one Sunday with friends. Both came together pretty quickly, and the meatballs are stellar – something about the combination of flavors in them is very appealing. They have a great aroma and, as meatballs are wont to do, have held up beautifully for lunches. I would definitely make these again. The chickpea salad was also delicious. To complete the meal of round things, we also made roasted brussels sprouts with some balsamic vinegar.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread
This is from The Bread Bible, which I haven’t cooked from in quite a while, though I have made this bread before. I made this in two small loaf pans, and actually shouldn’t have filled them as much as I did, as they baked over a little. Both loaves are actually in the freezer as the dinner I’d made them for wound up getting postponed.

Recent Recipes – Internet Edition

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
I wanted to have some sandwich bread on hand and had recently come across this recipe, so I thought I’d try it. It came out quite well, though one of the loaves didn’t rise as much as the other. Not sure if I didn’t quite get the dough divided in half properly or if it was in forming the loaf, but either way this tastes quite good.

Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Sandwich
This I made mainly because I had a lot of fresh herbs leftover from the ranch dressing, and it’s pretty good. The spread is pretty garlicky, so it doesn’t take a lot to get a nice flavor on the sandwich.

Flatbreads with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions, and Basil
I skipped the basil since it’s out of season, but this is a delicious light meal and would be a nice addition to the spread at a small party. You can make the onions ahead of time as they keep well in the fridge.

Ultimate Cheater Pulled Pork
Made for a party, using a bone-in pork shoulder, as according to the internet that would work and it was on sale. Super easy to put together, and quite delicious.

Roasted Apple Spice Sheet Cake
Another easy and delicious recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I made just one layer, and even that was a lot of cake – the cake, when baked, totally filled my 9×13 pan. So if you have one that is a little small or a little low-sided, be careful! But, as expected, this was very delicious.

Buttermilk Quick Bread
Came together easily and baked up beautifully. I made a variation with half whole wheat and half all purpose flower. This is crumbly, so don’t expect to use it as toast or spread things on it easily.

Recent Recipes – Cookbooks Edition

Chocolate Lava and Olive Oil CakesOlive Oil Ricotta Cake – The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (December)
Per her notes on this recipe, I split the cake into two layers and filled it with some of the Blue Apple Jam. I made two, and they were both a hit and quite easy to pull together. The cake itself wasn’t super sweet, and could easily be served without any topping or filling.

Single Girl Melty Chocolate Cake – The Joy the Baker Cookbook (December)
This is a single-serve chocolate lava cake that you bake in a ramekin. It was delicious and really hit the spot the night I made it, right before Christmas. Very easy to pull together and if you keep your pantry stocked for baking, you have everything you need on hand. I melted the chocolate in the microwave (zap it for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until it’s all melted), in the same small bowl I used to mix the rest of it up. No need to create more dishes!

Single Lady Pancakes (January)
Another one from the Joy the Baker cookbook – just enough batter to make up one big pancake or two normal sized ones, which is pretty perfect when you’re cooking for one. She bulks it up a little with oatmeal, which worked well. However, my inability to cook pancakes struck again as somehow one side was burned, and they also turned out kind of gummy. But, the flavor profile was good so there’s that!

Whole Lemon Bars (January)
And back to the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I have a good lemon bar recipe from my Mom, but I was intrigued by this recipe that uses the entire lemon. Everything is prepared in a food processer and it didn’t take long to come together at all. They were quite good and a friend who tried one commented that they have a deeper lemon flavor, probably from the rind being included. Personally, I think that they’re a winner just for sheer ease of preparation.

Corn Muffins (February)
From my Betty Crocker – this calls for buttermilk, which I think gave them a nice tang. I made them in a variety of sizes (from toddler up to giant) for my housewarming, intending to freeze the leftovers. Alas I didn’t get them into the fridge quickly enough and they went bad. But, this is a good recipe and they turn out pretty well.

Create-Your-Own Stir -Fry with Orange-Sesame Sauce (February)
This is from The Best 30-Minute Recipe (yes, singular). I didn’t do the greatest job throwing this together – the brocooli and chicken both got overcooked – but it wasn’t bad. I don’t think I’ll make that sauce again, but I will follow the guidelines for the stir fry itself. I just didn’t get everything prepped before I started, which I think was part of the problem.

Recent Recipes – Internet Edition

Basic Ranch Dressing Recipe
Super easy to put together, which I did just over 24 hours before I planned to serve it. The flavors really developed in the time it sat in the fridge, and it is quite good. I substituted plain yogurt for the sour cream just because that’s what I had on hand. This is a thinner ranch dressing, so if you want the really thick stuff you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Broccoli & Potato Nuggets
Served with the above ranch dressing. I used Penzey’s Mural of Flavor instead of Old Bay, because that’s what I had on hand. These went over well at a party, served cold/room temperature. Personally I thought they were a little better while warm. I divided the labor over two days, so that once I was ready to make them all I had to do was start forming the balls and set up the breadcrumb assembly line. They reheated best in the oven or toaster oven, as that crisped up the coating.

Asian Noodles with Shrimp and Edamame
Very fast and easy dinner. I took a shortcut and didn’t bother using a blender for the sauce, and it didn’t seem to make a big difference – but I also didn’t use Sriracha in it, I subbed about half the amount of tabasco, which I already had on hand. So, this was a very different flavor profile but I really liked it. I’m not sure I’m convinced you need to separate the sauces, though, especially if you’re just making one portion. The second night I made this, I cut down the amount of edamame and used some broccoli as well, which was a nice addition.

Chicken with Artichokes and Angel Hair
Not a groundbreaking recipe by any means, but this was a quick and tasty meal. Naturally I didn’t cook it as written, though, and in fact I messed around with the proportions in several ways. I had one huge chicken breast that weighed just over 3/4 pound, or half of what the recipe calls for. I also knew I wanted to end up with three servings. I sliced the breast into several cutlets and tenders, and proceeded to cook the chicken as written, adding some lemon zest to the flour mixture. Meanwhile I boiled up 6oz of pasta. I decided to use the entire can of artichoke hearts, and had meant to make the full amount of sauce but halved it instead. I also added a teaspoon or two of lemon juice with the broth, and a handful of halved kalamata olives with the artichoke hearts, and shaved a little parmesan on top after I plated it. This was great for dinner and hopefully will reheat well for lunch! As a side note, this is a great way to cook chicken. The cutlets pan fry much more quickly than a chicken breast on its own, especially the monster one I had. I so rarely cook cuts of meat like this that it was a nice reminder.

Recent Recipes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies
Oh, Joy the Baker. It’s all so delicious and these are no exception. Even when you make the (expensive) mistake of using almond butter instead of peanut butter. The pretzels stay crunchy (for a few days, anyway) and the sea salt on top was a brilliant trick that I am going to try to remember to employ next time I make regular brownies.

Also, her trick of buttering the pan, lining it with parchment, and buttering the parchment was BRILLIANT. After you bake let them cool, then you can pull the entire thing out of  the pan and cut them up directly on the parchment. (If you prefer to remove the parchment first, I recommend having someone come help you peel it off or slide a hard spatula between the parchment and the brownies first to loosen them up. I tried to just lift them up from each corner and that caused mine to crack along the seams where the brownie met the almond butter filling.) The pretzel sticks are fun, but next time I might look for tiny pretzels and then put on my OCD hat and cut them up into tiny brownies that each have a single pretzel. Oh yeah.

Black Bean Pate
This was made for a “Brave New World” themed book club discussion. Kind of a weird thing, really. It wasn’t moist enough to hold together into slices, or to really be dipped. You could probably spread it. It was also kind of bland, at least when made with canned beans. Don’t think I’ll be making this again.

Moroccan Carrot and Goat Cheese Sandwiches
Also for the book club mentioned above. This is from my Gourmet cookbook, which frequently has something perfect for a party or other gathering. Not so much for my day-to-day needs, but it’s a great book to have on your shelf. These are very different, and very good.

Easy Little Bread
I enjoyed the bread I was making from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” last year, but there’s no way I can get it to rise properly in this apartment. So I tried this instead, which has a single, short rise — I sat it on top of the oven while I baked something else, and it rose nicely. Even so, it’s a flat, dense loaf, so if you’re looking for something light and fluffy, keep looking. It’s really yummy, though.

Stir Fried Bok Choy with Soba Noodles
I’ve made this as written, but I also tend to use the sauce from this recipe on other stir fries. I usually wind up adding a little more soy sauce, though.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
This is a lighter mac & cheese that’s really delicious, and perfect for lunch. I modified it by sauteeing the onion with some garlic and two diced andouille smoked chicken sausages. I also threw in two cups of frozen kale instead of the spinach. Really delicious, and the andouille flavor from the sausages carries through the whole thing nicely. I’d definitely recommend something like that with a strong flavor.