Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving tips...

1. Do as much cooking and prep work as you can in the next two days so you can also enjoy Thanksgiving day. Stuffing, cranberries, pies, vegetable platters can all be made ahead. You can also chop vegetables for other side dishes the day before. If you don't need access to the table, set it in advance.

2. Buy a bunch or two of Italian parsley. It is only about .99 a bunch and can be used as a garnish, sprinkled over side dishes, etc. This is just a little touch that makes food look extra special.

3. Sweeten the whipped cream for your pies with ...brown sugar. Delicious!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

pear tart & pumpkin bars...

2 cups flour
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
12 tablespoons cold butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced
1 egg yolk
2 pounds ripe d'anjou pears, cored and cut into slices

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.Combine the flour, walnuts, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and the egg yolk. Mix, either by hand or with an electric mixer, until crumbly. Press 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture in an even layer into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch springform or tart pan. Arrange the pears in the pan, skin side down, to form a flower pattern; begin at the outside and work your way in. Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture evenly over the pears. Bake the tart for 25-30 minutes, or until it's lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer the tart to a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1 15oz can pumpkin
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup canola oil

Combine dry ingredients. Beat eggs. Add pumpkin, sugar and oil. Mix to combine. Add dry ingredients. Bake on large, greased baking sheet, 350 degrees 25-30 min. Cool completely and frost. Cut to make 48

Cream Cheese Frosting
6 oz cream cheese
½ cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
thin with milk if needed

Want something other than pumpkin or apple pie on Thanksgiving?? Here are two wonderful, different suggestions. I think the pumpkin bars speak for themselves. They are always a favorite in the Fall. The pics just show tips for cutting even, same sized bars. Cut in half, then in half again. Then, cut into thirds or half again. Rotate pan & repeat. I hope that makes sense...
The pear tart is the same recipe as the plum tart I made over the summer...I just swapped out the plums for pears. Fab.u.lous. This is one of my all-time favorite desserts. You could even add dried, sweetened cranberries for a festive touch! It really is so easy to put together, but looks like something that took quite a bit of effort. Great way to fool everyone!!
A little tip on baking with pears...buy pears that are a just a little soft to the touch. DO NOT PRESS TOO HARD or you will just bruise them. If pears are too firm, they will not soften when baking.
Try something new this year!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

acorn squash...

1 acorn squash
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
pecans (if desired)

Cut acorn squash in half & remove seeds. Slice a small piece of the skin off of the underside to create a flat surface. Melt butter and add brown sugar. Brush on squash. Sprinkle on pecans and a little coarse salt. Roast at 400 degrees for 45-60 min until squash is fork tender.

This is a perfect, easy side dish for Fall. It would even make a fantastic side for Thanksgiving. My kids could not get enough! With the brown sugar it was almost a dessert...really, really good!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

homemade bread stuffing...

You can make it from a box, a bag, whatever you like...this is just another EASY, good option.

8 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 med celery ribs, chopped
1 pound firm, white sandwich bread, cut in 1/2 in. cubes (10 cups) and dried overnight or in the oven (directions below)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 cups chicken stock/broth, or as needed
2 tsp poultry seasoning
salt & pepper

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 10 min.
Put vegetables and butter in a large bowl. Add the bread & the parsley. Stir in enough liquid to moisten the stuffing, about 2 1/2 cups. Season with poultry seasoning and salt & pepper. Place in a buttered baking dish, drizzle with an additional 1/2 cup stock/broth, cover and bake. (350 about 30 min. Remove cover for the last 5-10 min for a crisp top, if desired)

*dried bread cubes*

Use a firm sandwich bread. NOT a fluffy white (the stuffing will just be soggy) Crusty French or Italian breads also work. Using a serrated knife, cut the bread in 1/2 inch cubes (no need to cut crusts off). Let bread stand at room temp overnight OR, bake the bread cubes at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until they are dry and starting to crisp. 20-30 min. Do not toast them, they will crisp a little more upon cooling.

This recipe can also be used with packaged, seasoned stuffing mixes. Just use caution when adding the poultry seasoning and salt.

(Linsey...if you can't find poultry seasoning in your neck of the woods let me know...I'll happily ship some to you!!!)

Friday, November 7, 2008

stuffing the bird...

One of the first times I cooked a turkey I read about stuffing it with root vegetables, mostly onions. Let me preface this by saying that I am not the biggest fan of bread stuffing that has been cooked inside the turkey, so this approach of using vegetables instead was very appealing to me. I tried it, I loved it, and have been doing that ever since.
My favorite way is to use a combination of onions, carrots, celery and a turnip, or two. This creates the most amazing stock/juice, which then makes a fabulous gravy. The carrots and turnip do not even need to be peeled. The intention is not to eat the vegetables, just use them for flavor.
Season the inside of the turkey cavity with salt & pepper, prepare your vegetables (depending on the size of your bird, this could take quite a few of each type of vegetable) and stuff the turkey.
And as for traditional stuffing?? It definitely still has a place on my table. I just make it and bake it {separately} in the oven.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

meatball pizza...

meatballs (mini)
premade pizza crust(s)
pizza sauce
mozzarella cheese
green onions

If you have meatballs already made in your freezer this couldn't be any easier...and a nice change from pepperoni & cheese!
Everyone loved it!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

menu planning & list making...

OK, I said the next Thanksgiving post would be about stuffing...but I got a little ahead of myself. First things first:
*plan your menu*
Sit down with pen and paper (or keyboard & screen!) and write/type out your menu. Really, this is so helpful.
1. Turkey-
Plan on about 1 lb per person (that leaves plenty for seconds and leftovers) You may even want to consider roasting 1 large turkey and a turkey breast, depending on the number of people you are feeding.
2. Sides-
Just figure out what you like (and what you like to cook). Include at least one vegetable...it's nice to serve something light and fresh with all of the starch & protein
3. Rolls/bread-
Are you going to make them or buy them? Do you need to order them from your favorite bakery? (if so, do it soon!)
4. Dessert-
Same goes here. Making or buying? Either way, it's good to start thinking about it now.
5. Appetizers & beverages-
If you so choose...

Make a rough draft menu and then decide what things (if any) can be assigned out. If someone offers to contribute, take them up on it.
Next, start making a grocery list of the things you need to purchase. Most things on your list will be on sale in the coming weeks, and non-perishable items can be purchased and tucked away now. Even if you haven't committed to your menu, there are some items that you may need regardless.

Happy meal planning!!!