Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 Memoirs

 Over the river and through the woods . . . actually it is Central Park!

Why memoirs?  These are notes to remind me of my 2010 T-Day experience.  You know-What went right and what went wrong!  Organization is key to get everything done.  A few helping hands is really, really nice.  Cooking techniques and recipes are something I am always working on.  I am a chronic meddler so I always have to change something up or bring a new, untried recipe to the table. (I can hear the groans as I write!)  I almost brought two this year, but then I thought am I seriously nuts.  Stay with what works!  My family looks forward to what is served on T-Day and that anticipation should not be messed with.  This is the only time of the year we have a whole roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce and my Granny's homemade rolls.  If it works and they love it - don't mess with it.

I did not go over the top making too many dishes this year.  No soup for a first course or prepared appetizers.  All the dishes were made ahead of time including the Brussels sprouts.  This year was more relaxing than most.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Pie is a classic during the holiday season.  I like pecan pie.  Serious Yum.  I might have said that before.  Then mix some chocolate in that pie and that is more than just a serious yum.  We usually don't have these pies any other time of the year.  It is interesting that something we love so much yet we wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas to have them.  Maybe that is partly what makes them taste so good . . . the waiting and anticipation.  I know pecan pie for me is just not the same any other time of the year, for instance in the summertime.  It just doesn't seem right.

Now pumpkin pie is not really at the top of my list of things to make at any time including Thanksgiving. Usually someone is delegated this duty that really likes pumpkin pie.   I can make an OK pumpkin pie but personally I am not that crazy about it, it is probably just me and not the pie.  Although for me, it is a quest and I like a good challenge.  I am just like that.  It is the pie that is always leftover in my house (unless a certain relative brings canned mincemeat in a store bought crust that my husband feels obliged to have a piece so as not to have hurt feelings).  However if I make a pumpkin cheesecake that is a whole different event.  The one I made for this blog was intended to be frozen until T-day.  That didn't happen.  The cheesecake-ivores got loose and found it before I was even aware.  Like a flash it was gone.  I was stunned.  You think I am kidding.  Who the hell can eat a whole cheesecake and still get through the doorway.  To be fair, I am almost certain it wasn't just one person.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cranberry Chutney - 2 versions

Cranberry sauce and Thanksgiving.  I don't think you can have one without the other.
 Cranberry Chutney flavored with apple, orange and spices

This year I wanted to shake things up a bit because that is just what I do.  I always change up something. I don't really follow recipes so I get to cook how I am feeling which is nice and luckily no one complains!   Most dishes that I fix at Thanksgiving are fundamentally the same.  A brined bird, cornbread stuffing with sage, mushroom gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmellows on top (I think this dish is nasty sweet and I will not eat it but it is one of the first things finished!), homemade rolls, and a few veggie side dishes like brussels sprouts, creamed spinach or green beans. Oh yeah, and chocolate pecan pie=total and complete YUM.  There are flavor variations every year that differ.  Pecans or sausage in the cornbread dressing, mushroom gravy with sage or thyme, pecan pie flavored with vanilla or rum and this year the sweet potatoes are getting a do over (those Marshmellows might have to go!)

This year the cranberry sauce is going to be replaced with cranberry chutney.  I am not really sure how one is different from the other because one of these recipes is similar to cranberry sauce I have been making for years.  Maybe I have been making chutney all along. 

I have made two kinds. One is on the sweet, orange flavored type (a lot like the classic sauce I have been making for years) and one is more savory.  The savory one contains celery and onions but is still sweet and tangy.  The orange flavored one is my favorite, I think.  I reserve the right to change my mind!  It contains chopped fruit, orange liquor and spices.  They both sat in the refrigerator for a couple of days and the flavors improved quite a bit.  The savory one did not taste that great the day after I made it and I almost threw it away.  I am glad I didn't.  It still has crunchy celery after several days which I didn't expect and it taste fabulous.  It seems you taste the flavors separately when you taste either one of these recipes right after you make them.  After they have been in the frig for a couple of days the flavors just seem to come together as one.   

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

Applesauce is something that you buy in a jar (especially if you have kids) and would never think of making it yourself.  Some of the jarred stuff is actually OK.  Applesauce is just, well apple sauce.  There is not a lot of pizazz to it.  It is simple and humble, unless you make your own.  It is not that hard.  Once you do, you will realize what a treat it really is.
Every Fall I make homemade apple sauce.  There is absolutely nothing like it.   It is fabulous.  I love it with granola and plain yogurt or with a slightly sweetened, cooked 10 grain cereal with plain yogurt.  It is the breakfast of champions (at least for this champion).  Or as a snack by itself.  Or a side dish at Thanksgiving.  Yes, that is right, a side dish!  It is so easy to make but it does take a few minutes of peeling.  Want to know my secret? Buy the biggest apples that you can find.  This way you peel fewer of them to get more sauce.  I like that!
Another tip is to buy different types of apples.  For example, this batch contains tart and/or sweet cooking apples like Granny Smith and Mutsu (these usually don't break down like the other apple varieties) along with Winesap and McIntosh, Ginger Gold and Fuji.  I am not that picky about the combination but I never use gala or red delicious.  And it is really awesome if you can find big apples.  I know I already said that but I wanted to drive the point home.  By combining the different varieties you will get applesauce with complex flavors instead of the garden variety, plain apple sauce from a store shelf.  It is totally worth it.  Have I convinced you yet?

You can make it chunky or smooth.  I like it chunky.

Spiced or plain.  I like mine with cinnamon.

Sugar or not.  I like mine  slightly sweetened with dark brown sugar.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Green Tomato Chutney (or Green Apple)

I have been experimenting with chutneys lately.  It is an interesting endeavor because there are so many kinds and variations.  The word "chutney" is borrowed from the Hindi "chatni" that means "pasty sauce" or "strong, sweet relish"(sources vary on the meaning and I narrowed it down to these two).  They can be sweet or sour, spicy or mild, or any combination of these.  What I like about chutneys is that the flavor combinations are almost limitless so they are totally customizable to your own tastes.  That is a lovely thing.
Green tomatoes are hanging about at the farmers market so I grabbed a few.  I did a little research to find something different to do with them besides fry them or cook them with okra (my favorite food when I was growing up) which is not available this late in the season in this neck of the woods.  I found this recipe for apple chutney from Joy of Cooking where the green tomato is interchangeable with  apples as the main ingredient. Green tomatoes might be hard to find right now unless you are in the south then you can substitute green Granny Smith apples or a combination of the the two. I am in southern PA and am still finding green tomatoes which is nothing short than amazing.  What a long summer we have had this year!

Chutney is a condiment and here in the US of A it is usually served with a grilled meat like pork, chicken or turkey.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin Bread with dates and walnuts

It is that time of the year.  It is Autumn and it is pumpkin time.  My daughter and I roasted a pumpkin this year for soup my daughter made.  I thought I was going to break my knife trying to cut into it.  I have never had a pumpkin that was so hard that it was difficult to push a sharp knife into.  But I persevered.  It got roasted.
I know everyone in the blog world has been making pumpkin everything since September 1, but I can be kinda slow sometimes.  I don't really Christmas shop until December 1 or so because why do it before then  (and certainly not on black Friday when the turkey hangover is kicking in and can only be cured by more turkey). What fun is that?  I can't stand how commercialized Christmas has become anyway and I just want to try and keep it fun.  I might just crochet book marks for everyone this year!  I digress.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

One Cup Cookies

One cup cookies.  Sounds simple.  And it is.  Or rather they are.  Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies.  They were invented in America and are an undeniably American cookie.  They are not my favorite, not even in the top 5.  Shocking, I know.  I usually like a cookie with more bite and texture.  I like to add a little fiber and nutrition into the cookies when possible by adding a couple of tablespoons of wheat germ or oat bran.  No need to go overboard here because well . . . they are cookies.  And it would be nice if they tasted like cookies.  So this recipe for One Cup Cookies is what I consider my version of chocolate chip cookies because they have chocolate chips in them.  That simple minded approach can keep one blissfully happy. Yup.
I have to say I really love this cookie.  I am not sure if they are my favorite, but when I make them I can't stop eating them.  I made them over Halloween to keep everyone from eating too much leftover candy.  It sort of worked.  I cannot remember where this recipe came from but I am sure it was from a magazine or newspaper many years ago. In an early attempt to get organized, I actually took the time to type this recipe up along with a few others although I didn't think the source information was important at the time.  Yes, I have made these cookies a few times.  You may be asking why are they called One Cup Cookies?  Well, it is because the main measuring tool is a dry cup measure.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall Reflections

 Fall in Northeastern PA.  Forgive the drab day, but oh, do the colors stand out!

We have had a bit of an Indian Summer and have had produce well into the Fall.  Warm or cool, Fall is here and what can you say about it that a picture can't say better. Really! For me, it is all about the colors and the transition period to the winter. The hardest part of the Fall is when the clocks are set back for Daylight Savings and we Fall Back to darkness at 4:30 pm. Yuk. I wish there were no changes and we would deal with the light changes naturally. But if I am a reasonable person and think about why this is done then maybe it is OK. The time change is participated in by many countries and extends the hours during the summertime by having the sun rise later and most are generally not sleeping at this time.  The more time to be productive by.  I have a teenager and a young adult in my household so this general rule does not apply to them.

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