Saturday, November 29, 2008


This Thanksgiving was spent with family and friends at my home. Grad students who couldn't travel home for the holidays, missionaries away from family, and some of my family who traveled in for the first Thanksgiving in the new home. Here is the menu:

Heures d'oeuvres:
  • Vegetable crudites
  • 2 wheels of baked brie: one with apricots and honey, the other with cranberries, pecans, and honey
  • A wedge of danish blue cheese, and another of wesleydale with cranberries
  • Roasted asparagus thanks to a good friend
  • Shrimp with grapefruit and avocado

  • Braised turkey breast with apple cider and thyme gravy
  • Dried fruit stuffing
  • Braised carrots with orange and rosemary
  • Roasted purple and red potatoes
  • Brussel sprouts with orange and hazelnuts
  • Sauteed green and white beans with shallots and garlic
  • Sausage with apples and sweet & sauerkraut (sauerkraut is a family Thanksgiving tradition)
  • Crab and new potato salad with dill lemon vinaigrette
  • Cranberry, cherry, ginger sauce
  • Mashed sweet potatoes with maple pecan topping, courtesy of a kind guest
  • Homemade rolls, courtesy of good friends

  • Strawberry and rhubarb pie (again, I have great friends)
  • Blueberry pie (they keep getting better)
  • Coconut cream pie
  • Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (I love it when other people cook)
  • Chocolate caramel cheesecake
  • Caramel apple cheesecake
  • Pecan pie (other people bringing stuff saved me)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecake

"Light and fluffy" doesn't even almost do this cheesecake justice. This stuff was light and fluffy, almost to a fault, but you couldn't fault it because it was just so good.

I have also taken on cheesecake as a personal challenge. You will notice in the picture that we are still suffering some cosmetic problems, however, I am determined to master these things soon. I will also offer a very strong word of advice: put as many layers of aluminum foil around it as you bake it as is prudent and possible. I have yet to bake one where water hasn't penetrated it somehow. I have no idea how, but soggy crusts really just aren't fun.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

for the crust
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes
for the filling
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 eggs
for the crust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap a 9-inch springform pan in 3 layers of aluminum foil. In a food processor, place all the crust ingredients except the butter, and process until even crumbs throughout. Add the butter, and pulse until worked into the dough. Press the crumbs onto the bottom of the well-greased springform pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.

for the filling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Adds the sugars, and cream them into the cream cheese. Add the pumpkin, cream, spices, and cornstarch and beat until even throughout. Scrape down the sides if necessary. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well in between.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 325 degrees. Pour the filling mixture into the crust in the springform pan, and plan in a large roasting pan filled with hot water. The water should come up to about 1 inch from the top of the springform pan. Bake for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, until the sides are firm and the center is somewhat jiggly.

Reridgerate in the springform pan serveral hours, or overnight to firm. Unlcok the pan and serve with freshly-whipped cream.

Purple Potatoes

So, there really isn't a recipe here, just an awesome little kick I've been on lately. I love foods that aren't the color you expect them to be. Small disclaimer: it has to be natural, food coloring is cheating, big time--white asparagus = cool, green ketchup = sketchy.

I have recently discovered a new joy in life: purple potatoes. They sound ridiculous, but they are awesome. I just saw them in the store, picked up a few, and roasted them with some red potatoes, yukon golds, and carrots. It was a pretty amazing-looking side dish, if I may say so myself.

It just adds so much interest and depth to an otherwise rather boring dish or an otherwise drab-looking plate (it really perked up a plate of braised turkey breast and roasted potatoes, which would have otherwise been quite brown).

So now I'm on the prowl for other multi-colored amazing feats of nature. I've heard rumors of red carrots, but I haven't found them yet (if you see them, let me know). I've also seen white and purple bell peppers, yellow tomatoes, white asparagus, and yellow green beans (that doesn't really make any sense). Any favorites out there?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cranberry Apple Pork Roast

This recipe is a great one to just put in the slow-cooker and forget about it until you're ready to eat. I love cranberries and pork together, and this combo works well for a fulfilling meal on the without a lot of hassle.

Cranberry Apple Pork Roast

  • 2 tablespoons each butter and olive oil
  • 1 approximately 3-pound pork roast
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
In a large, flat-bottomed skillet, heat the butter and olive oil until very hot. Sear the pork roast on all sides. Leaving the pan on the stove and hot, put the pork roast in a slow-cooker on low heat.

Meanwhile, add the thyme leaves and shallots to the pan and saute until browned. Pour in one cup of the apple cider, and stir, dislodging as many of the browned pork bits as possible. Pour the cider over the pork in the slow cooker, adding another cup of cider and the can of cranberries. Add enough chicken broth to cover all but about 1 inch of the roast.

Let the roast cook for several hours on low. If a shorter period is need, switch to high heat. When ready to serve, take out the roast and slice into about 1-inch thick slices. Pour a few cups of the juice from the slow-cooker into a pan and bring to a simmer. Whisk the cornstarch into a few tablespoons of cold water, then whisk into the gravy. Keep whisking a few minutes until thickened. If the meat has gone cold, put it in the pan and allow it to reheat in the gravy, then serve with the gravy.

Cranberry, Cherry, Ginger Sauce

All right kids, Thanksgiving is coming upon us. Due to weddings, pregnancies, unstable economies, and my lack of forethought, the grand event will be at my home this year. I'm pretty stoked, not gonna' lie, but it's kind of consuming. For about the last month I have been perusing food blogs, daydreaming in the middle of creative ways to cook turkeys, and staying up much later than is prudent trying various recipes.

I love holidays, and I love tradition, but I also love little twists, turns, and unexpected flourishes on traditional favorites. I heard a great quote by some chef I've never heard of before who said that his job is not to educate his patrons as much as it is to provide for them. I think that's true. All the typical elements of Thanksgiving will be there (including the family sauerkraut), but I'm trying to update them just a bit.

This recipe is the first installment of a new kick on an old favorite. I think aluminum cans are an insult to cranberries. Often time the cranberries are just kind of the last thing that no one remembered, so you grab the can opener, plop out the jelly-like blob with the ridges of the can down the side, and call it good.

Not good.

This modern twist is adapted from Orangette, and I love the depth of the flavors. The cherries and ginger really add a nice spark.

Cranberry, Cherry, Ginger Sauce

  • 1 12-ounce jar apricot jam (I didn't quite have this much left, so I subbed about 1/3 with raspberry jam, and it worked very well)
  • 1/4 cup fruity vinegar (I used raspberry white balsamic, but raspberry, or white vinegar with some raspberry jam would work well)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 bag fresh cranberries (make sure to remove any stems still hiding in there)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
Put the jam, vinegar, and orange juice in a pan and bring to a boil. Stir for several minutes until the liquid reduces by about a third. Pour in the cranberries, and continue to stir until they begin popping. Throw in the ginger and cherries, continue to stir until heated through and thickened, a minute or two more. Let cool.

Raw Eggs

Life lesson learned: too much batter can be a bad thing.

One time I made a lot of chocolate chip cookies. Well, there would have been a whole lot of them had they actually all made it to the oven, but they didn't. I literally ate about half the batter (that's a lot). It's not like I pulled out a fork and just dug in, mind you. Things like this slip up on you unexpectedly. Just a little pinch there, licking the beaters, scraping out the very last of the bowl, that cookie that you thought would fit on the sheet but in the end it doesn't, etc.

Well, right quick my body let me know that it did not appreciate the sudden assault on it. Working in the public health field that I do, I have taken a lot of microbiology classes and read a lot of case studies on food poisoning, so of course my find immediately goes to raw eggs, salmonella, food poisoning, and death. I became concerned.

So, I did the first thing any rational person would do: I called my sister, a nurse. I asked her how long it usually takes for symptoms of food poisoning to occur. She listened intently like the compassionate health care professional she is, assured me that it usually takes several hours minimum for symptoms to appear. "You know, I really think that what you're feeling is just a result of having eaten half a batch of cookie dough. In all honesty, that's pretty gross."

Words to live by.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sweet Potato Chicken Chili

This one won awards, folks. Not kidding: the church chili cook off in-the-bag. Some would accuse me of stacking the judges in my favor. While vehemently denying that accusation, I will admit that I had a lot of friends on the panel, and there may have been some unspoken, implied pressure, I did nothing illegal or unethical, so I submit that the verdict stands.

Now, the sweet potatoes will certainly throw a few people, so just be ready for that. It's not your typical recipe, but I really love the flavor of it.

Sweet Potato Chicken Chili

  • 1 medium sweet vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cumin
  • 2 cans white beans (great northern or navy beans), with liquid
  • 1 can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 can mild green chilies
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and finely diced
  • chili powder, to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
  • up to 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • splash of apple cider vinegar
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • fresh sliced avocado
Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan, and saute the onions and the cumin until translucent and fragrant. Add to a slow-cooker with the beans, tomatoes, chilies, sweet potato, chili powder, and some of the broth. Cook on low for several hours. About an hour or so before serving, switch the heat to high add the chicken, lime juice, salt and pepper, and vinegar. If too thick, add some more broth. To serve, top with chopped cilantro and avocado.