Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Today I am thankful for the people who read my blog. I'm still learning and growing, and I appreciate every one of you who check in on me while I figure out exactly what I want to make of my corner of the internet.
I wish you all a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
That said, I don't want to eat a Thanksgiving dinner every day, or even once a month. It's a lot of work and a lot of food. I do love the flavors of fall, though. The smell of sage and thyme give me warm, fuzzy feelings inside - a reminder that the holiday season is upon us. All of the Thanksgiving side dishes I've been making the last few weeks got me a little excited about the upcoming dinner and I decided to make a mini version.
A Thanksgiving burger is nothing new and innovative. What I wanted was a leftovers sandwich. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing... But I didn't want to roast a turkey or use deli turkey, so I decided to do this burger. I looked online for a little inspiration, but decided to just do what I'd been thinking of in my head.
I mixed ground turkey with stuffing and dijon mustard. (Ok, I decided also to not make my usual stuffing. I wanted this dish to be a quick and simple way to enjoy the taste of Thanksgiving, so I used a boxed stuffing mix. If I made this with leftovers, I would love it even more with my stuffing.) I grilled the burgers (which I made smaller like a slider). I topped the burgers with sliced gruyere (because it's what I had), cranberry sauce, and a sage mayonnaise. It was delicious.
I would definitely have this again. Maybe one day in May when I'm missing the holidays. Maybe as soon as this coming weekend when I don't know what to do with my leftovers. Whenever it is, they will be gobbled up. (Oh yeah, I went there.)
1 package ground turkey (not turkey breast)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup stuffing (whatever you have on hand)
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
6 slider rolls or 3 standard burger rolls (I used Martin's potato rolls to add to the Thanksgiving dinner feel of it.)
2 sage leaves, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
In a small bowl, combine the sage, mayo and mustard. Stir to combine.
In a bowl, combine turkey, mustard and stuffing. Form mixture into 6 sliders or 3 burgers. Grill over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes per side. Top with cheese slices.
Spread the tops of each roll with cranberry sauce. Spread the bottom of each roll with sage mayo. Add a grilled burger and enjoy.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Back then, it never occurred to me that people made cranberry sauce. That it didn't just come in cans, naturally. My brother had moved to Cape Cod when I was around 9 years old and I remember someone pointing out cranberry bogs to me. It was the first time I realized that cranberries were not just a canned phenomena, exclusive to Thanksgiving Day.
I started to make my own cranberry sauce about 15 years ago. Now, I can't imagine buying pre-made cranberry sauce. It's so simple to make it yourself. The taste is so much brighter and fresh. You can play with the flavors and make it your own. I pretty much always go with this recipe, but I love the idea of adding other fruits like apples, apricots, figs, plums or pomegranates. Adding spices like sriracha, chipotle or ginger. By changing the liquid and adding wine, cointreau or apple cider. The possibilities are endless.
I do love a classic cranberry sauce, however and it doesn't get any more classic than this. It can be made a day or two in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Make more than you need, because leftover cranberry sauce is as versatile as the sauce itself!
1 bag whole cranberries, rinsed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
zest of one orange
Add cranberries, sugars, and juice to a saute or sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugars melt. The berries will begin to pop, releasing their natural pectin, which will set the sauce once cooled. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the juice is reduced. Remove from heat, add cinnamon and half the orange zest, stir to combine. Top with the rest of the zest before serving.
Monday, November 21, 2011
As I made these, I realized that this idea I had to make Thanksgiving side dishes has worked out very well for Nico and I. I mentioned before that we are trying to lose weight by eating smaller portions and being more thoughtful about what we eat, before we eat it. By having a Thanksgiving side dish or two per week, I feel like we've been able to indulge in holiday gluttony without it being a calorie bomb hurled at us in one meal. And I've been able to enjoy the dishes more since they've been the highlight of my meal instead of one component in many.
And I was very glad to single out this dish. The earthiness of turnip is one I love. As a kid, I turned my nose up at mashed turnips. As an adult, I've come to love the bitterness of the turnips brightened by the creaminess of the butter and milk, and highlighted by a sprinkle of salt. The contrast of the crispy shallots are a treat. There is a scene in the movie Ratatouille where the main character talks about closing your eyes when you eat certain flavors together. How they come together like a symphony of music. This is exactly how I feel about this dish.
The original recipe serves 6 people, but I halved it for our family. I still think I could have served 6 people, but we had small portions. But I'm perfectly ok with having leftovers.
Mashed Turnips with Crispy Shallot
recipe adapted of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style
1.5 cups vegetable oil
5-6 shallots, peeled and sliced into rings
2 large yellow turnips, about 4 pounds total
1 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons salted butter
.5 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low, add the shallots and cook until they are golden brown, 30-40 minutes. (In a pinch, when I've forgotten this step, I've done this in 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Watch them carefully, moving them constantly. When they look like they are just about done, get them out of the oil because they will burn in only a few seconds.) Stir the shallots occasionally to ensure even browning. Remove from the oil to a paper towel lined plate and allow them to cool.
Peel the waxy skin from the turnips and cut them into 1 inch chunks. Place in a sauce pan and cover them with water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain.
Add the turnips to a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter, salt and pepper. With the motor running, add the milk in a steady stream and puree until the turnips are smooth. Transfer to a bowl and top with crispy shallots. Serve immediately.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Feel free to play around with the flavors as you like, as well. I sometimes add rice wine vinegar or sesame oil to this dish to heighten the Asian flavors. I might throw in shredded carrots and celery or sprinkle some extra scallions on top. Serve it with herbed basmati rice or go crazy and make some fried rice. It'll be a "better than take out" kind of night. Going into holiday season, I think these would make a great glazed meatball hors d'oeuvre for a cocktail party.
No matter what small changes I make, it's always a huge change from the same old same old chicken routine.
Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs
slightly adapted from Real Simple
1 1/4 pounds ground chicken
2 scallions, white and green parts chopped
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 cloves minced garlic, separated
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
2 cups snow peas
2 cups frozen, shelled edamame
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Combine the chicken, ginger, 1 glove of garlic, and scallions in a medium bowl. Shape into meatballs. I use a spring loaded ice cream scoop to get even sized meatballs.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium high heat and cook the meatballs, turning until cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.
Wipe out the skillet. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan over medium-high heat. Add the peas, edamame and 1 clove of garlic. Cook until heated through, tossing to keep the vegetables moving for 2 minutes. Return the meatballs to the pan.
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce and brown sugar. Add to the pan and simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
Serve over rice.
Monday, November 14, 2011
I don't make it very often any more. Mostly, because as I became aware of Nico's likes and dislikes, I realized most components are not his favorites. Chicken, beans, rice... he could take them or leave them. For what it's worth, I could have made this for him. The first time I made him dinner, I made Salmon Wellington with spinach rice. Turns out, he hates puff pastry, spinach and rice. Either way, he would have been his polite self and told me how much he loved it. That's how smitten he was. Thankfully, I had the good sense to turn it around the next time and make him Wiener Schnitzel.
I miss this dish though. It is seriously delicious and bright with fresh flavors. Plus, given my kids' love of black beans, its a great way to sneak other things past them while they are busy enjoying their beans. It is a very simple dish, yet packed with flavor. But don't underestimate it's simplicity. Once, I decided to jazz up the salsa with some spices (cumin, cayenne) and I regretted it. It doesn't need it. Served with some steamed brown rice, eating well never tasted so good.
a cook au vin original
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste
1 small red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced small
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
scallions or chives, green parts chopped
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
In a bowl, combine the olive oil, 1 clove of garlic and lime juice. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Pour lime juice mixture over the chicken, cover and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
In a large sauté pan, sprayed with cooking spray, brown the chicken over medium heat on both sides until cooked through, about 4-6 minutes per side. I use thin cuts of chicken, so I do 4 minutes per side, but I also like to keep the chicken in a preheated oven while I prepare the salsa. I try to keep my chicken just shy of done so it doesn't toughen up while it's in the oven. When cooked, transfer to a plate and tent with foil, or move to the oven.
Without cleaning out the pan, cook the onions until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the jalapeno and 1 clove of garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the yellow bell pepper, chives or scallions and black beans. Cook until the beans are heated through then removed from the heat. Gently stir in the diced tomatoes and serve immediately over the chicken. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice, if desired.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
My husband and I are trying to lose weight. Can you tell? Honestly, this soup is a testament to the fact that you can eat anything. Anything. In moderation.
I've had this soup on my radar for several years. I was waiting for a holiday when I could serve it to people in their own individual pumpkins. How cute, right? Start off with a bang. But then, just post Halloween, pumpkins were on sale, so I grabbed a couple and the other simple (but not low-fat) ingredients I needed. I was going to make it the next day. That night, we decided it was time to start watching what we eat.
Which is exactly what we did. We watched what we ate. Instead of eating an entire portion, we ate half. Actually, I ate 1/4 of mine because I really couldn't eat any more. As you can imagine, it's very rich. I made a few adjustments. I did substitute half of the cream for whole milk. For 1/4 of my soup, a slice of sourdough and a glass of red wine, I clocked in at 329 calories. How do I know that? I used a recipe calculator to figure out how many calories were in one pumpkin and quartered it.
I've waited a very long time to have this soup. It met my expectations. Rich and creamy with the earthiness of the pumpkin. It would probably have been better if I'd used nothing but heavy cream, but that is a fat and calorie content I don't even want to think about!
I made one other change to the recipe. Originally it said just to stir it when it was finished baking and pull in the pumpkin from the sides of the walls. That wasn't enough for me. I really like the pumpkin to have a smooth texture. So I tossed mine into the blender and evened it out. An immersion blender would have come in handy.
If you are looking to wow your guest at your Thanksgiving table, this is a soup worth considering. Just save room for turkey!
Baked Pumpkin Gruyere Soup
adapted from Apple Pie, Patis, & Pate
one small pie pumpkin (about 2 pounds)
1 pound Gruyere cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
fresh grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of butter
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the top of the pumpkin off at the stem, much like you would if carving a jack o'lantern. Scoop out the seeds and pump. Fill the cleaned pumpkin with cheese, milk, cream, butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper. It should be about 2/3 full.
replace the pumpkin top and bake for about 45 minutes to 1.5 hour - mine took 1.5 hours - until soft, tender and the pumpkin flesh is spoonable. Check by poking the lid to avoid your lovely soup escaping your nature-made soup tureen.
Remove from oven and scoop the pumpkin flesh with the cream and cheese and combine. Run through a blender, if desired. Serve hot.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
When my family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner, there are roughly 20 of us there. It's very easy to get away with having 10 different side dishes because there is truly something for everyone. My brother and I are the only ones who love turnips, so we always make a small bit of that for ourselves.
The Brussels sprout camp is also very small. I don't mind. I love them and don't really want to share them with 20 people. My husband, brother and brother-in-law love them. Last Thanksgiving, we went to Boston to be with everyone and I said I'd make the sprouts. I was just going to do a standard roasted sprout recipe. But when I saw this recipe on my friend's Facebook page, I knew this was it. I'm pretty sure the words "bacon vinaigrette" were the selling point. Plus I love butternut squash so it was a great way to get those on the table too.
Well, as I mentioned in my previous post, we are having a small dinner this year. It's no longer just my family of four. My best friends and their daughters will be joining us, and I am truly thankful to be spending the holiday with them. That's really just us four adults though. And I'm pretty sure they are not fans. With their 4 year old and three month old daughters, I don't expect the girls to want them either.
If you've never had Brussels sprouts, I implore you to give them a try. I think they get a bad rap. If you grew up eating frozen Brussels sprouts, you have ever right to hate them. Frozen ones are mushy and flavorless. Fresh Brussels sprouts, cooked properly, are crisp and delicious and versatile to different cooking methods. Roasting them is my favorite. Steamed and pan-sauteed yield delicious results. It is important to not cook them too long or they do get mushy and grey, and they begin to let off a cabbage-y odor that is probably why most people think they don't like them or won't try them. It's worth noting that they are nutritious and full of anti-cancer compounds (which are diminished by overcooking).
This recipe is delicious and a great vehicle for my love of bacon. Easily adaptable, feel free to substitute your favorite fall flavors. The original recipe included chestnuts, but my grocery store didn't have any in stock this early in the month.
Brussels Sprouts & Buttersquash with Bacon Vinaigrette
slightly adapted from Williams Sonoma
6 strips bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled, bacon fat reserved
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
6 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch dice
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
I have mentioned previously that I cook my bacon in the oven, then pour off the bacon fat into a container I keep in the fridge to use for cooking. You can use your reserve or pour off the fat from the sheet pan to use in the first step. If you wish, you can cook your bacon on the stovetop, then begin step one with the pan used to cook your bacon.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the shallot in 1 tablespoon of bacon fat until tender. Allow to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, thyme and shallot. Slowly whisk in 5 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the vinaigrette aside.
Fill a large pot with about a half inch of water and fit with a steamer basket. Be sure the water does not come higher than the bottom of the steamer basket. Bring the water to a simmer and steam the sprouts until tender, about 6-8 minutes. (You can boil the sprouts, but I prefer to steam so as not to reduce the anticancer compounds.) Remove sprouts from the pot and transfer to an ice bath. Drain well, then cut them in half lengthwise and place them on a towel lined sheet pan.
Return the pot to the stovetop, filled half way with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the butternut squash and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from boiling water into an ice bath. Drain and place on the towel lined baking sheet.
In your sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of reserved bacon fat. Place the Brussels sprouts cut side down in the pan. Cook without moving them for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the sage and squash and cook for two more minutes. Add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the vegetables, then stir in half the bacon. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with remaining bacon. Serve immediately.
If you intend to make this for Thanksgiving day dinner, and worry about this being too labor intensive, you can do the first four steps a day or two before and pack the vinaigrette, sprouts and squash in separate airtight containers until you are ready to serve. In the last few minutes before dinner is served, finish the dish with the last step.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Can you believe it's November? Halloween is behind us and we had a crazy few weeks leading up to All Hallow's Eve. Now, I feel like the holiday season is upon us. In a few short weeks, it will be Thanksgiving and the true madness of the season will begin.
This is the first year that we are not going to see my family for Thanksgiving in several years. It's also the very first year that we are not going to a big gathering. It'll just be the four of us. Which, face it. With two small kids, means I'll be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for two of us. The kids can eat a lot, but combined, they don't even eat as much as one adult.
I'm not sure I know how to make Thanksgiving dinner for just the four of us. There are so many Thanksgiving day side dishes that I absolutely love. I could really eat just the sides. But I will be cooking a full size turkey for Thanksgiving because the left overs are really why I make turkey.
I decided though, so that I don't feel like I missed anything by not having a big Thanksgiving dinner that I am going to make one or two Thanksgiving favorites each week leading up to the holiday. When there are only 2-4 people having dinner, there is just no need to make 10 side dishes. This week, I made this creamed spinach. I've never had this for Thanksgiving, but had thought of adding it to the menu. I will definitely have it again, but I'm glad I didn't save it for Thanksgiving. My old favorites remain my favorites.
I really do love creamed spinach and with the addition of lardon, how could that be bad, right? I am not the biggest fan of pearl onions, however. That may be what I didn't dig about this. I even halved them, as I usually do when something calls for pearl onions. The whole thing was very rich and more time consuming than I had hoped it would be, which is why I won't add it to my Thanksgiving day menu. With so many other things to juggle, I don't love this enough to carve out the time for it.
We ended up having this and I made a "steakhouse at home" night. A little date at home after the kids went to bed. I grilled some petite filets and made some baked stuffed potatoes, too. A little red wine, and who needs a babysitter? This was definitely an indulgent meal, but every once in a while that's not such a bad thing!
Creamed Spinach with Bacon and Onions
adapted from Martha Stewart Holiday Season's Eatings
1 bag baby spinach, picked over and stems removed and chopped
1 cup frozen pearl onions, halved
5 tablespoons unsalted butter,
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk
3 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4 inch dice (sliced bacon would work fine as well)
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of fresh ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
Melt four tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, add the milk in a slow, steady stream. Bring to a boil, while whisking for about 1 minutes. Remove from heat.
Melt remaining one tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon, cook stirring constantly until browned, about 6 minutes. Stir in onions and spinach and toss until spinach is wilted. Add the reserved milk mixture and heavy cream. (I did not use all of the milk mixture. I only ended up using 3/4 of it.) Add nutmeg and cook, stirring until heated through and thickened, about 10 minutes. Do not boil. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm.