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Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce

You know what’s good? Brussels sprouts. I know, I know — they’re all the rage right now, but I have to say, I’m so glad they’ve been re-discovered and that people are actually doing them right!

Roasting is the way to go, hands-down. You’re not still cutting those little Xs in the bottom of your Brussels sprouts and boiling them are you? Roasting is so much easier, and so much tastier, too.

The hubby and I went out to dinner at Uchiko a little while ago, and, among the many dishes they wowed us with was a side of crispy roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet chili sauce. Since I love Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and wanted to include them in our feast, I decided to try my hand at a similar recipe. Although ours didn’t come out as crispy (or, truth be told, as greasy*) as Uchiko’s, they were still awesome.

Roasted Brussels Spouts with Sweet Chili Sauce

* Not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing — they were utterly delicious.

I love the combination of soy sauce and sweet chili sauce on these, for a slightly Asian spin that was still perfectly at home with more traditional Thanksgiving foods. We had the rest of the sprouts (recipe testing, round 2) with a dinner of caramelized tofu with ramen noodles a couple nights ago, and it went great with that, too. Definitely a must-try!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Chili Sauce
Author: 
Cuisine: Asian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 Tbs tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs sweet chili sauce**
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Toss the Brussels sprouts in a bowl with the oil and soy sauce to coat them, and then spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, or until partially tender.
  3. Toss the sprouts and then raise the oven temperature to 400. Continue to roast for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until tender, crisp and browed, tossing every few minutes to ensure even browning.
  4. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and toss in a bowl with the sweet chili sauce. Serve immediately.
Notes
** Available at Asian groceries or the Asian foods section of some grocery stores.

 

Thankful… and a use for all those leftover mashed potatoes!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, laughter and delicious food! I was going to write a big Thanksgiving post this year, but, when it came down to it, I was just too busy cooking and enjoying time with my family to do it. No apologies here — that’s what this holiday is all about isn’t it? I was just too busy being thankful and enjoying the things I have to be thankful for to sit down and write about it.

thanksgiving meal

Thankful.

But I certainly am thankful. There is so much I am thankful for, it’s hard to know where to begin, but the thing I keep coming back to is that I am thankful for where I am. I wouldn’t have chosen the road that led me here, particularly, but here I am! Don’t get me wrong… I am still traveling that road, and I am not sure where it’s leading, but now I know it’s the journey, not the destination. I am comfortable with a little uncertainty, which is something I have ever really been able to embrace before now. I went from high school to college to law school to law firm without ever not knowing what the next step was… and then I had to take a huge step into the unknown. It was terrifying at the time, but it turned out to be so right. I just had to close my eyes and jump, without knowing where or when I would land. I am still falling, but my parachute is open, and I’m enjoying the ride.

I went to prenatal yoga weekly when I was pregnant with Nora. During savasana the instructor would always tell us to think about something for which we were truly grateful. What would always come to mind, immediately, was “this time.” I was (and am) grateful to be a position to step back and explore, to find my passion, to take care of my child full-time. I appreciate that’s a choice that many people don’t have, just from the pressures of day-to-day living, and I’m so glad that my crooked path led me to this place.

You know the question career counselors ask: What would you do if you were independently wealthy? It’s supposed to lead you to your perfect career. It seems like it should be easy an easy question, but I never had a great answer for it. I spent a couple of years putzing around (okay, there was some parenting involved, too) before I finally got relaxed and clear and wound-down enough to see it: I like to write. I like to cook. I like my family. So, I write about cooking and my family. This blog, which I started as just a fun thing to do, to keep my mind entertained while spending the lion’s share of my time as a mommy and homemaker.* As it turns out, this is it — the thing I would do if I didn’t have to work. So I’ve started picking up freelance writing assignments here and there, and doing some editing. Nora gets to go to preschool a couple of days a week (which she loves), and I get a little time away to flex my brain muscles. It doesn’t feel like work. I’m certainly not getting paid much, but maybe someday!

* It’s interesting trying to come up with a neutral term for that occupation.

So, basically, I am thankful I’m now at a place where I have figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Not that I’m there yet — it’s the journey — but I feel like that was really the hard part.

Anyway, that’s enough introspection for one day. Let’s get down to business. Thanksgiving is over, and that means leftovers! I don’t know about you, but I ended up with lots of delicious mashed potatoes left over (I always make more than necessary because I love them so much). I recently discovered a brilliant (in a “why have I never thought of that?” kind of way) use for leftover mashed potatoes: Mashed potato cakes! They made a great dinner last night.

mashed potato cakes

Dinner!

Even Nora loved them, although she was a bit disappointed that we weren’t really having “cakes” for dinner.

Leftover Mashed Potato Cakes
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1-2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese**
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • chopped fresh parsley or chives for serving (optional)
  • sour cream for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Roll a nice spoonful of the mashed potatoes into a ball using your hands. Roll in a shallow dish with the eggs, and then in another shallow dish to coat with the panko.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the coated potato balls in the skillet and gently flatten them with a spatula. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 3-5 minutes. Flip over and cook until golden brown and crispy on the other side.
  3. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Serve sprinkled with the parsley or chives and a dollop of sour cream on the side.
Notes
** Optional. Otherwise, just use more panko... but the parmesan is tasty.

 

Our Thanksgiving Table… and a Giveaway (CLOSED)!

We have just finished a terrible round of the pukies here at our house. Thankfully Nora seems to have skipped the worst of it (fingers crossed), but being sick with a toddler is no fun. Even less fun is being sick with a toddler when your spouse and co-parent is also sick. But, the worst is over now, so onward and upward. It’s time to sanitize the kitchen and start thinking about Thanksgiving!

Here’s what will be on our table this year:

  • Turkey - I defer to my omnivore guests on the centerpiece of the meal. Hubby is in charge of the turkey business this year (as always), and he decided to order a smoked turkey breast from Rudy’s.
  • Green Beans with Creamy Mushrooms – I tested this recipe last week, and it was far too delicious not to make again. It’s like green bean casserole without all the processed junk!
  • Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole – This is another of my “dress rehearsal” recipes, and although I planned to revert to my traditional sweet potatoes with honey, pecans and cinnamon, I have been outvoted. That’s okay — it’s good stuff, man.
  • Stuffing – TBD. I think I’ll make cornbread stuffing with pecans and jalapeños. Stuffing (or dressing, as my mother would implore me to call it) is not really my thing, but I think it’s required.
  • Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes – Love. These. Potatoes. I think I have a new go-to recipe… but for holidays only, since I’m sure they are terrrrrrible for you.
  • Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts – This is a new recipe, but it’s similar to several others I make, so it should be a snap. Plus I have beets and goat cheese, so why not?
  • Spiced Cranberry Sauce – Fresh is so much better, people. Are you still using the canned stuff? Please tell me no. If you want a processed sugar-free version, use the recipe at the link, but substitute coconut palm sugar for the brown sugar. Done and done.
  • Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie – You knew this was going to make the cut again, didn’t you? I’m pretty sure we’ll never have another Thanksgiving without it.
  • Bread Pudding – I seize on any excuse to make a good bread pudding, and Thanksgiving certainly is one! I’m not sure yet if I’ll be making White and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding or another variation (maybe chocolate bread pudding with walnuts?), but it’s happening.

In general, I like to overdo it, but this year, just coming off of feeling like death for a few days, I got responsible and pared back a bit. What’s on your Thanksgiving table this year? Are you trying anything new, or sticking with the tried-and-true?

***GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED  – CONGRATS TO WINNER ALI!***

Now, for what you’re all really interested in: the giveaway! I’ve never done one before, but when Cooking Planit gave me the opportunity to offer you one of my favorite kitchen gadgets on their dime, it sounded like a win-win to me. Just in time to help with all your holiday cooking this year, how about a Cuisinart Mini-Prep Food Processor?

Hello, beautiful.

Not only is it lovely, it does a bang-up job with small tasks like making dressing, chopping onions and more. All you have to do to win is visit Cooking Planit and let me know which of their featured “Alternative Thanksgiving” meals looks yummiest to you! Check out the Rafflecopter for more details and ways to get more entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy hunting (errr… you know). Good luck with your Thanksgiving prep, and have a wonderful holiday!

P.S. You have to comment letting me know your answer for the first two entries. Anyone who doesn’t will be disqualified!

 

Thanksgiving Dress Rehearsal: Part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post, I am trying out some new dishes in advance of Thanksgiving. That means you, dear readers, get to share in my trials and tribulations and learn from my mistakes before the big day rolls around. I cook so you don’t have to! Well, sort of.

Anyway, on today’s docket are a couple of new recipes (one from Cooking Planit) and one old family favorite thrown in for good measure.

4. Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

I am a classic sweet potatoes girl. For Thanksgiving, I like them just the way my mom used to make them: roasted, cut into chunks, topped with honey, butter, cinnamon and pecans, and then baked together. But, you know me — I can’t resist bourbon. So, of course, this recipe for Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole from Ginny’s Austin struck my fancy.

Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

Nom nom nom.

Was it good? Abso-freakin’-lutely. But is it better than my old standby? And worth the extra stick of butter and heaps of brown sugar? I’m not so sure. I will tell you that I “sampled” the raw topping before it went on the casserole. Repeatedly. It was gooooood. But… I have to come down on the side of tradition here. Hubby would probably disagree with me, since he kept proclaiming the greatness of the dish as he shoveled bite after bite in, likening the melt-in-your-mouth texture to cotton candy. So I guess we’ll have to duke it out.

5. Green Beans with Creamy Mushrooms

This is another new spin on an old favorite. Do you love old-school green bean casserole with french-fried onions from the can and cream of mushroom soup? Sure. But this is better, and it’s made out of real food. This is definitely the best of the gourmet green bean casserole wannabes I have tried (and I have tried a few). Gold star — it earns a place on my Thanksgiving table!

Green Beans with Creamy Mushrooms

Yum.

Green Beans with Creamy Mushrooms
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ¾ lb green beans, trimmed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 11 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 2 Tbs champagne vinegar
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp chives, minced
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Bring about an inch of water to boil in a large sauté pan. Add the green beans and blanch for 3-4 minutes, until bright green but still crispy. Drain in a colander, wipe out the pan and return it to the heat.
  3. Warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the shallot. Sauté until softened, stirring, and add the garlic. Stir in the mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and the moisture has evaporated. Add the vinegar and cook until absorbed. Stir in the cream, chives and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the green beans to the pan and stir to combine. Transfer to an 8 x 8 baking dish.
  5. Combine the butter and the panko in a small bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Spread evenly over the green bean mixture.
  6. Place under the broiler for a couple of minutes, until the panko is golden brown. Serve warm.

 

6. Sausage Balls

Wait, what? Yeah, this is an old family favorite that is decidedly non-vegetarian. However, the hubby loves them, so he continues to make them every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, fear not, there is a yummy meat-free version that can be made with tofu-based sausage. The brand we get is called Gimme Lean, which always makes me laugh. The sausage balls aren’t as greasy in their vegetarian incarnation, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

Sausage balls

Either way, yum.

Sausage Balls
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 8 oz grated cheddar
  • 1 lb breakfast sausage (substitute tofu-based sausage for a vegetarian version)
  • 3 cups Bisquick or other biscuit mix
  • 2 jalapeños, minced
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl using your hands until well combined, and then roll into 1-inch balls.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and sizzling. Serve warm.

 

Note: I received a small grocery stipend from Cooking Planit in exchange for reviewing these meals, but I was not otherwise compensated, and my opinions are my own.

Thanksgiving Dress Rehearsal: Part 1

Thanksgiving is kind of the Super Bowl of the foodie world. I’m only hosting a small dinner this year (the three of us plus my dad and his wife), but that certainly will not stop me from planning a fabulous menu. Enter Cooking Planit, a new online tool for home cooks that started up right here in Austin.

Cooking Planit has a wide variety of meals and sides in its database, but there’s a twist that makes it better than any old recipe site. Once you pick your recipes, it generates a grocery list for you, and then helps you organize what to do when, so that your meal gets ready right on time. I love the grocery list feature, but I will say that I am far too entrenched in my haphazard ways in the kitchen to change now. I like my haphazard style. It works for me… but that’s just me.

But, onto the real deal: the side dishes. Over the next few days, I’ll be cooking my way through several of Cooking Planit’s chef-created sides as a trial for the main event. Who will make the cut? Can you feel the tension in the air? I’ll also be providing a few of my own tried-and-true Thanksgiving recipes in the hope that they may find their way to your Thanksgiving table. So, without further ado, let’s get this party started!

1. Kale Salad with Parmesan and Balsamic Syrup

With our kale going like gangbusters out in the garden, it was a no-brainer to try this deliciously simple kale salad recipe first. I cooked it up with ingredients I already had on hand, and it was ready in about 5 minutes flat, no joke.

Kale Salad with Parmesan and Balsamic Syrup

Delicious.

I served it alongside a quinoa-stuffed acorn squash for dinner one night this week, and it was delightful. I didn’t have pine nuts on hand, so I substituted walnuts, and it was fine (though I do think the pine nuts would be better).

Does it make the cut for Thanksgiving? The jury is still out. I love the idea of using our garden’s bounty on our Thanksgiving table, but a salad just seems a little non-Thanksgiving-ish for some reason. We shall see.

2. Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Next I decided to try out a recipe for cream cheese mashed potatoes. Hey, I like cream cheese, I like potatoes — what could go wrong? Turns out, not much.

Cream cheese mashed potatoes

Yum.

These are fluffiest, creamiest, richest mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. Plus they’re a snap to throw together. Hey, if I can pull it off while my kid is watching Signing Time, anyone can do it. Speaking of kids, Nora couldn’t get enough of these potatoes. She kept stealing them off my plate.

I think the picture says it all, really.

Do they make the cut? Absolutely.

Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped
  • 6 oz cream cheese, cut into pieces
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs sour cream
  • ⅓ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Scrub the potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Cover with cold water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the water and place the saucepan back on the stove for a couple of minutes to cook off any excess water, stirring frequently. Remove the potatoes from the heat and mash them in the pan.
  3. Return the saucepan with the potatoes to the stove over low heat and add the green onions, cream cheese, butter, sour cream and parmesan cheese, stirring to combine well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

As for turkey? Yes, there will be one. I won’t be eating it, of course, but the hubby ordered one from Rudy’s. We’ll just have to send our guests home with lots of leftovers.

I’ll be having my holiday standby, quinoa-stuffed acorn squash, as a main course. Check out my post on LiveMom for details and the recipe!

Note: I received a small grocery stipend from Cooking Planit in exchange for reviewing these meals, but I was not otherwise compensated, and my opinions are my own.

Thanksgiving: Part II

Time for pies!

As far as I’m concerned, dessert is the main event on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I suck at making pie crusts. I have tried and failed many times (in several different ways) to make lovely homemade pie crusts, to the point where I had basically just given up and decided to use frozen (gasp!). This year, I decided to tackle homemade pie crust again, though, and I’m happy to say that I mostly succeeded!*

* My one complete failure was puff pastry pie crust. I had read that you could collect scraps and roll them out to make a pie crust, so I tried it, but the dough was too warm and got all sticky. As a friend reminded me, the key to a good pie crust is cold!

My first attempt was a graham cracker crust — the real kind — for a pumpkin pie. As in, not mashed up graham crackers and butter, but dough for an actual graham cracker baked like a pie crust. It was awesome! The edge of the dough got a little (okay, a lot) burned, but I was able to salvage it my using a sharp knife to cut the burned edge off while it was still warm.

Emergency surgery.

The pie was great, and definitely my favorite pumpkin pie recipe ever. It was all totally from scratch, since the pumpkin puree came not for a can, but from an actual pumpkin — imagine that!

Pumpkin Pie with Graham Cracker Crust
Based on this recipe

For crust:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

For filling:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
6 whole 3-inch long cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods
3/4 cup crème fraîche
2 cups pumpkin purée**
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash ground cardamom
dash ground allspice
1 Tbsp brandy
3 eggs

Make crust:
In a large bowl, mix both kinds of flour, salt, and cinnamon. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add both sugars to the creamed butter and mix until well blended, and then mix in the honey. Add about half of the dry mixture to the butter mixture, and mix fully combined. Add the remaining dry mixture, scraping down the sides, and mix until fully incorporated.

Transfer the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten it into a disk. Wrap tightly, and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour to firm up.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it, keeping it on top of the sheet of plastic wrap. Flour the top of the dough and roll out with a well-floured rolling pin, adding flour as needed, using long, smooth strokes, until the dough is about 1/8-inch thick.

Invert your pie pan on top of the rolled-out dough and cut a circle about an inch wider than the pan. With the pie pan still upside down on top of the dough, carefully lift the dough and the pan using the bottom layer of plastic wrap and flip. Peel off the plastic and gently slide the dough into the pan. Press in at the corners as needed, and crimp the edges. If you have excess dough, simply form another ball and roll it out again to make another crust (or graham crackers!).

Preheat the oven to 350° and refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes. Prick the crust all over with a fork and bake for 5 to 10 minutes. Let it cool on a rack while you make the filling.

Make filling:
In a small saucepan, bring the cream and white sugar to a bare simmer. Crush the whole spices in a plastic bag or smash them with the flat side of a chef’s knife just to break them up a little bit. Add them to the cream mixture, remove from heat, and cover and set aside for about an hour.

Meanwhile, mix the pumpkin purée, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, eggs, and ground spices in a stand mixer or food processor. Once the cream is fully steeped, warm the mixture back up over medium heat and add the brandy. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into the stand mixer or food processor with the pumpkin mixture. Add the crème fraîche and mix well.

Raise the oven temperature to 425°. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 15 minutes.*** Lower the oven temperature to 350° and bake for an additional 35 minutes. It should still jiggle a little in the center when it’s done, but it shouldn’t be liquidy. Remove and cool on a rack. Let it chill in the refrigerator for a few minutes before cutting.

** Yes, you can use canned, but I highly suggest making your own. It just tastes better! I just cut a “lid” into the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and strings (like you’re carving a Jack-o-lantern, put the lid back on slightly crooked to allow for venting, and bake on a baking sheet at 400 for 45 minutes to an hour (or until you can easily pierce the outside with a fork). Cool, then scoop out the flesh and process through a food mill or food processor. Let the puree sit in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl for 30 minutes or so to get some of the liquid out, then use. If you have any left, it freezes really well for future use.

*** If you are smart, you will tent the edge with foil to avoid a burned crust like mine!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After that modest success, on Thanksgiving night, I manned up and decided to attempt a “real” pâte brisée pie crust using the Cooks’ Illustrated recipe, which was recommended by a friend. I meticulously followed the method and didn’t breathe easy until the pie came out of the oven, and it worked like a charm! It was even relatively pretty, and there were no burnt edges or anything.

I identified some things I had done wrong in the past (not using enough flour when rolling out the dough, using too many strokes to roll out the dough), and stumbled upon an awesome trick (from the pumpkin pie recipe above) to get the rolled-out dough into the pie plate — Press ‘n’ Seal! I just rolled the dough out on top of a sheet of Press ‘n’ Seal (the same one I used to wrap it up in the fridge), and then just inverted it into the pie plate and peeled the plastic off. So simple, and no broken or stretched crust. The Press ‘n’ Seal worked even better than normal plastic wrap, since it’s less sticky.

I used the crust for a new twist on an old favorite — pecan pie. I love pecans, but pecan pie has always been too sweet for me. Its syrupy flavor overpowers the pecans, and I usually just skip it. This was a different story, though. Eliminate corn syrup from the recipe, add some chocolate, and flavor it with bourbon, and we have a winner!

Bourbon-y chocolate-y goodness.

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
Crust from Baking Illustrated with my modifications; filling recipe based on this one

For crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4-5 Tbsp ice water

For filling:
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup bourbon
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or use chocolate chips)
1/2 cup pecan halves

Make crust:
Process the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about 10 one-second pulses. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.

Sprinkle 4 Tbsp of ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 1 Tbsp more ice water if the dough will not come together. Flatten the dough into a 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it, keeping it on top of the sheet of plastic wrap. Flour the top of the dough and roll out with a well-floured rolling pin, adding flour as needed, using long, smooth strokes, until the dough is about 1/8-inch thick.

Invert your pie pan on top of the rolled-out dough and cut a circle about an inch wider than the pan. With the pie pan still upside down on top of the dough, carefully lift the dough and the pan using the bottom layer of plastic wrap and flip. Peel off the plastic and gently slide the dough into the pan. Press in at the corners as needed, and crimp the edges. Refrigerate for about 40 minutes, and then freeze for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375. Remove the pan from the freezer, line with foil, and distribute pie weights (or pennies) across the bottom. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the dough looks dry. Remove the foil and pie weights and continue baking until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the crust and cool on a wire rack. Lower the oven temperature to 350.

Make filling:
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Stir in the melted butter. Add both sugars, flour, vanilla, and bourbon and mix well.

Spread the chocolate in the bottom of the crust, then add the chopped pecans. Pour the egg mixture over and arrange the pecan halves on top.

Bake until golden and set, about 45 minutes. Cool for at least an hour before cutting.

Thanksgiving: Part I

I’ll separate this into two posts, since Thanksgiving, as the Super Bowl of the foodie world, deserves more attention. I’ll talk sides first.

As a vegetarian, Thanksgiving is mostly about side dishes and dessert for me. If I’m hosting, I’ll usually make a veggie main course along with the turkey. A couple of years ago, I made an acorn squash stuffed with quinoa, wild mushrooms, and smoked mozzarella, and it was awesome. This year we went to our friends’ house for dinner, though, so I just brought ample sides to share. Don’t worry, I still walked away stuffed!

First, I made some simple roasted brussels sprouts. There’s really nothing quite like fresh brussels sprouts. If you hated them as a kid, give fresh ones a try! I just halve them (quarter any bigger ones) toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast them in a 400 oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until they’re nice and brown on the edges. Perfecto! So much easier than boiling or steaming them, too, since you don’t have to cut a million little “x”s in the stems. Also, the flavor is much better. Sometimes I’ll sauté them with a little butter and some chestnuts or toasted hazelnuts to finish them off, but I was short on time, so I just went rustic, and they were still great.

I also made a chipotle sweet potato gratin based on this recipe. It’s a dish I have tried a ton of variations on, and I can never seem to get it quite right. I think it’s great in theory, but in practice it usually turns out too soupy, or too greasy, or too spicy, or not spicy enough. It’s always something. Although I like the non-traditional-twist-on-a-traditional-side-dish thing it has going, I think I’ll revert to my mom’s sweet potatoes with honey and pecans next year and save myself the trouble.

The hubby contributed deviled eggs and sausage balls (both veggie and non-veggie) to the feast, so we had something to munch on before the real meal got underway. His tofu sausage balls are a surprisingly good substitute for the meaty ones my grandmother used to make.*

* Yep, it’s my family recipe, but the better half latched on to it and has pretty much made it his own. It’s basically Bisquick, sausage, cheddar cheese, and chopped jalapenos, mixed, formed into balls and then baked.

My favorite new recipe of the year, though, was the cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce is so delightfully easy to make, and it even gets better if it sits in the fridge for a day, why would you ever go with the canned stuff? I’ve experimented with a few different kinds of cranberry sauce, but I think this one is a keeper.

Yum.

It’s nicely spiced, has a hint of orange, but not too much, and is sweet but not cloying. Perfect! Nora loved it (although we did limit how much she had, since it is pretty sugar-y), and she also loved to wipe her icky hands on my sweater as she ate. So, any good ideas for getting cranberry stains out??

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Based on this recipe from Gourmet

12-ounce bag of cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1/2 cup honey
3 to 4 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar, or to taste
two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup water

In a saucepan combine the cranberries, the honey, the brown sugar, the cinnamon sticks, the cloves, the nutmeg, and the water and simmer the mixture, covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is thickened. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and let it cool. The sauce may be made 2 days in advance and kept covered and chilled. Serve at room temperature.

Thanksgiving post-mortem

It was a lovely Thanksgiving this year. We had dinner with friends, and I contributed some sides and pies, which are my favorite parts anyway, so I was happy as a clam. Nora had tons of fun playing with our friends’ little girl and climbing their stairs over and over until an old baby gate was located and put into use. Fun times!

The short of it:

Pie crusts attempted: 3

Pie crusts completed successfully: 2 (including one brought back from the brink of ruin)

New favorite recipes: at least 2 (spiced cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie)

Old favorites I’ll never give up: 2 (green bean casserole and sweet potatoes with marshmallows)

Things I’m thankful for: too many to count

I’ll be back with the long version (and some recipes!) later, but we spent most of today wine tasting in Carmel Valley,* and I am due to go collapse on the couch soon… but not before I eat my fill of leftovers!

* An excellent alternative to the traditional Black Friday madness.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thankful

I love Thanksgiving. It’s such a pure, joyful holiday, and everyone in our country celebrates it, unless they’re a real curmudgeon. It’s not marred by gifts or commercialism — it’s just about being thankful, and eating a feast of fantastic fall food.* What could be better?

*Unintentional alliteration, woo!

I am so thankful this year. I am thankful for this time I have to devote to my little family — that I’m able to really relish it and appreciate it. I am thankful for a bright, bubbly, energetic, beautiful, often infuriating, and spirited daughter who is about to turn one. I am thankful for a devoted and caring husband who is also an amazing father. I am thankful for so much I can’t even name it all, but those are the biggies. Sometimes it’s good just to take time out to appreciate what you have, and that’s why I love Thanksgiving.

Since it is cocktail Thursday, even if it is an extra-special Thursday, I have the perfect Thanksgiving cocktail to share: mulled wine sangria.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This would be great as a pre-dinner drink, since it’s autumnal, and not too strong (which is helpful in preventing those tipsy dinner table debates). Enjoy!

Mulled Wine Sangria
Adapted from this recipe

1 (750 mL) bottle merlot or other red wine, chilled and divided
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp whole allspice
1/4 tsp whole cloves
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 (3 x 1 inch) strip orange rind
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (from one large orange)
1/2 orange, thinly sliced and cut in half
club soda

Place allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and orange rind in cheesecloth and tie securely into a sachet. Combine 1 cup wine, brown sugar, and sachet in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool. Discard sachet and pour mixture into a pitcher, and add remaining 3 cups wine. Chill thoroughly. Add juice and orange slices. Pour into glasses and top off with club soda.

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