Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pumpkin Coconut Cheesecake Bars with a Coconut Pecan Crust

The title is a mouthful.  The bars are an even more delightful mouthful.  Decadent and silky.  Not overly sweet.  In my mind it brought together the best of Indian cuisine and Southern comfort food.  Spicy, warm, sweet and silken. 

The inspiration from this came from a Facebook conversation with a friend on Christmas Eve.  I needed to bake something.  ANYTHING.  I've been slammed with work from three shows.  That, coupled with the usual Holiday chaos has left me with precious little time to cook, let alone enjoy it.

My friend suggested pie.  After a quick perusal of my pantry I discovered pumpkin puree, coconut milk, pecans and flaked coconut.  Back around  Thanksgiving I had thought about making pumpkin cheesecake bars.  The discovery of the coconut milk teased for a twist...

Cobbled together from recipes at Taste of Home, Alida's Kitchen, and Alaska from Scratch

yields 12 servings

The Ingredients:
For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup toasted pecans, finely crushed
5 Tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup flaked coconut
1/2 tsp ginger

for the filling and topping:
11 ounces light cream cheese
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
6 oz coconut milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ginger

The Process:
for the crust: 
Preheat the oven to 350

In a large bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the pecans, coconut and ginger.  Reserve about 3/4 cup of the mixture for the topping.

Firmly press the remaining mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a greased 8 inch square baking pan.  Bake for 12- 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

for the filling:
Lower to the oven temperature to 325

In a large bowl cream together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, corn starch and vanilla until smooth.  Add eggs, and beat on low until combined.  Stir in the coconut milk.

Pour 3/4 cup of the filling into a small bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin, brown sugar and ginger.

Pour the coconut filling over the cooled pecan crust.  Gently dollop the pumpkin filling  over the top.  

Smooth into an even layer, or if desired, gently swirl the pumpkin into the coconut with the tip of a knife for a marbled effect.  Sprinkle with reserved crust.

Bake the bars fro 35-40 minutes or until the filling is mostly set, but still slightly jiggly in the center.  Cool to cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate for at least two hours or preferably over night.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Bread pudding may be Ross' kryptonite.  When we go out to eat, we usually forgo dessert, either for economy or due to a full belly.  However, if bread pudding is on the menu, all bets are off.

I like mine a little more custard-y.  Ross prefers his a little more bread-y.  Either way, dot it with a generous helping of fruit--whether it be diced or fresh--and a healthy splash of booze of some sort and we are in heaven.

This version is buttery and rich--not too custard-y, but certainly not dry.  Feel free to change up the breads and fruits.  Sourdough and peach?  Oooo...maybe next time...

adapted from recipes from 1001 Recipes (edited by Martha Day), Paula Dean, Chef Point Cafe

serves 8 to 10

The Ingredients:
for the pudding:
1 lb loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, day old and cubed
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp bourbon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1/3 cup brown sugar

for the sauce:
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup bourbon

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Generously butter a 9 x 13 baking dish using 1 Tbsp butter.  Toss the cubed bread with the diced apples.  Add the bread to the prepared dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, bourbon and vanilla.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread.  Gently press the bread down into the mixture to make sure it is soaked. Allow to rest for ten minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining butter and brown sugar until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Cover the bread mixture with aluminum foil. Place the covered baking dish in a deep pan. Pour water into the deep pan until it comes about halfway up the covered baking dish. Bake for 1 hour.  Uncover, dot with brown sugar mixture and bake an additional 15 minutes. Serve warm with sauce.

for the sauce:
Whisk together the granulated sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Add bourbon and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drizzle over warm pudding, reserving the rest on the side.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seafood Paella

A very merry Christmas to all!  Ross and I are alone today...basking in each others presence on this chilly glorious Christmas Day.  So we splurged on a bounty of fresh seafood.  Paella for two...

adapted from 365 Main Courses Edited by Jenni Fleetwood

Serves 2 generously

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 oz Spanish chorizo
5-6 oz fresh squid, cleaned
1 small red pepper
2 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup short grain or risotto rice
pinch of saffron
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
6 jumbo shrimps 
1/2 lb little neck clams, cleaned
1/2 lb mussels, cleaned
6-8 oz lobster tail, shell split down the center

The Process:
Prep the squid, Gently pull the tentacles away from the body with a twisting motion.  Cut the head from the tentacles and discard the head and innards. Pull the tentacles back to reveal the beak and gently squeeze...the beak and cartilage should slide out easily.  Remove the long clear cartilage from the body.  Rinse the body and tentacle in cold water and pat dry.  Cut the body into rings and the tentacle into pieces.  Rinse and scrub the shellfish.

Soak the clams and mussels in cold water for about 20 minutes to remove sand and grit.  To remove the breads on the mussels, hold in one hand and pull the beard toward the hinge.  Scrub clams and discard any that are not tightly shut.

Heat the oil in a large wok or paella pan.  Add the onion and garlic.  Saute over medium heat until translucent and fragrant.  Add the chorizo and saute until lightly browned.

Add the prepared squid, sauteing for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the peppers and tomatoes.  Simmer for 4-5 minutes until the peppers are tender.  Add the wine and stock.  Bring to a boil.  Add the rice and saffron and lobster tail.  Return the mixture to a boil, reduce the temperature, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the peas, shrimp, clams, and mussels.  Stir the seafood gently into the rice.  Simmer the paella over low heat for an additional 20-25 minutes. or until the shellfish have opened and the lobster tail is cooked through.  Discard any mussels or clams that haven't opened.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve hot.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Snow Day Cocoa

Nothing beats a hard day of shoveling like coming in to hot cup of cocoa.

Growing up, hot cocoa had a special place in my heart.  Come fall, I would trek out to the chilly soccer fields to watch my brother kick the ball around with his team mates.  That early in the morning nothing fended off the cold quite like a cup of cocoa.  Even a cup of cocoa made from a pouch with hot water.

Mom always upped the ante.  After a cold day of shoveling or playing we would often come in to a pot of rich cocoa on the stove.  Thank you Hersey's.

This cocoa ups the ante a notch further.

Adapted from Hersey's cocoa recipe

The Ingredients:
1/3 cocoa powder
1/2 cup vanilla scented sugar*
1/3hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
dash of corriander
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream

The Process:
Combine the cocoa, sugar, salt, cinnamon and coriander in a medium saucepan.  Slowly stir in the hot water and mix until well combined.  Bring the temperature to a boil over medium high heat.

Reduce the temperature to low.  Whisk in the cream, milk, and vanilla extract  Stir until heated through.  Label into mugs and garnish with marshmallows or whipped cream, if desired.. 

*stick a pod or two of spent vanilla bean in a jar full of granulated sugar.  Add more sugar as you use it up.  The vanilla pods will keep fragrant for months

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Roasted Corn and Red Cabbage Slaw

How about a break from the holiday carb fest for something a little more colorful and crunchy?  This tex mex slaw comes courtesy of Driftless Organics.  The November storage box had in it not only a plethora of root vegetables but two beautiful heads of red cabbage.  The roast corn is ridiculously easy to prepare, even in the middle of winter.  Frozen corn can go a long way.

The slaw is a great side dish on its own, but it is even better as a taco filling.  Fish tacos come to mind.  Our tasty dinner consisted of seasoned ground turkey, a smear of sour cream and a mound of this beautiful purple slaw wrapped up in a corn tortilla.

It was hard to stop...

recipe courtesy of Driftless Organics 

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
1 medium head of red cabbage, cored and shredded
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
2 carrots, grated
1 cup frozen sweet corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red sweet pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
3 Tbsp yogurt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste

The Process:
Preheat broiler.

Combine cabbage, red onion, and carrots in a large bowl. Set aside.

Toss sweet corn, garlic, and red pepper in oil. Season with salt and pepper.  Spread on
a baking sheet in an even layer. Place under broiler for 7-10 minutes, watching carefully and stirring occasionally, until the corn is completely thawed and starting to brown. Let cool.

In a small bowl whisk together spices, yogurt, lemon juice and hot sauce to taste. Add the dressing and corn mixture to the cabbage and toss to coat. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Paula Deen's Corn Casserole

Usually I avoid canned and pre-packaged foods like the plague.  But every once in a blue moon the urge hits.  This is pure, greasy awful comfort food.  Sort of a mix between cornbread and corn mush.  Only Paula Dean....

Adapted from Paula's recipe at The

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (15 oz) can cream-style corn
1 (8-ounce) package corn muffin mix
2 green onions, minced
1/2 cup sour cream
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

The Process:
Preheat oven to 350

In a large bowl, stir together the both cans of corn, corn muffin mix,onions, sour cream, and melted butter. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and top with cheese. Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let stand for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sticky Ginger Garlic Chicken Drummies

Need a batch of something simple to serve to a crowd?  My usual standby is a crock pot full of chicken drummies.  I tried an "Asian"  inspired version for a holiday party a mere few weeks before I started blogging.  In fact, I believe that recipe helped spawn my desire to blog my growth as a cook.  I should have sat down that night and typed the recipe up.  I can't seem to find it now...

Ah well.

This recipe is fairly similar.  It hits those same sweet and salty notes, though the chicken is not as fall off the bone tender as the holiday version (I will continue to kick myself until I unbury that recipe!)*

Four marinade ingredients and two cooking options.  The recipe will work equally as well for a variety of other cut of chicken.  The cooking time in the oven may vary for thicker cuts such as breasts or thighs.  And the marinade is easy to scale up or down for any amount of meat.  In the end I believe I made about 6 pounds of meat...roughly 28 drummies.  We'll start with two pounds here...

adapted from CanaryGirl via FakeGinger

serves 4-6

The Ingredients:
2 lbs chicken drumsticks or wings
1/2 cup soy sacue
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-inch knob of ginger, minced

The Process:
Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and garlic together in a large zip top bag.  Massage until the sugar is dissolved and garlic and ginger evenly distributed.  Add the chicken, seal and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, or preferably overnight.

for the oven:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a lightly oiled baking dish.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 160 and the juices run clear.

in the crock pot:
Dump the contents of the zip top bag, marinade and all, into the crock pot and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8.  This version is more likely to fall off the bone...

*It seems I did save the recipe from that holiday party.  Just goes to show how much of a mess my bookmarks currently are.  You can find the original recipe at Gina's Skinny Recipes

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Drunken Cranberry Apple Pie

After all of that starchy glorious food from Thanksgiving dinner, what better way can you think to end the day than with a slice of pie, a cup of coffee and a table sprawled with board games.

Mom graciously brought up a praline pumpkin pie.  I'm still coaxing her for the recipe.  I do not believe I can go back to regular pumpkin pie after that treat.

And this apple pie.  This pie may have ruined me for any other apple pies down the road.  Go figure it was inspired by one of Jackie's concoctions at the Beeroness.  Her apple pie still out shines this variation.  She uses a cheddar cheese pie crust.  You laugh.  If you spend anytime in Wisconsin, you would know.  Apple pie and cheddar cheese go hand in hand.  Trust me.

What makes this pie so special, besides the cranberries?  The apples marinade in beer for an added boozy boost.


Inspired by Jackie's recipe at

The Ingredients:
recipe for dbl pie crust
6 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 cups cranberries
16 oz pale ale or wheat beer, I used Futhermore's Fallen Apple
2 lemons, juiced
2 tbs flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp corn starch
2 Tbsp melted butter

The Process:
Place the apples, lemon juice and 16 ounces of beer in a bowl and allow to soak at room temperature for 2 hours, tossing every half hour to redistribute. Remove the apples from the beer and allow to drain and dry for about 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl combine the apples, cranberries, flour, salt, spices, sugars and corn starch.  Toss to coat and set aside.

Roll out half of the pie dough, line in a  pie pan and press into shape, removing any excess. Add the filling.

Roll out the second disk of pie dough and add to the top of your pie.  Crimp the top and bottom crusts together.  Cut holes to vent steam.  Or try a lattice top.

Brush crust with melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Allow to cool before slicing.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wild Rice Risotto

I needed to go a little bit out on a limb for Thanksgiving.  As you can judge from previous posts, nothing I attempted was too terribly out of the ordinary.  I wanted to add a little more wow factor into the meal.  And nothing seems to impress others quite as much as risotto.

To tie the dish into the harvest meal a little more, I opted for a wild rice version.  Wild rice is huge in this region of the Midwest, and no doubt a staple of the native people and early fur traders and colonists.  The risotto itself is made from arborio rice, with the addition of a bit of wild rice for flavor and texture.  The wild rice adds a wonderfully nutty contrast an extra crunch to the creamy rice.

Of this dish, there were no leftovers...

adapted from Heidi's recipe at the Young Grasshopper

serves 4-6

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup wild rice

1 cup arborio rice

6 cups chicken broth divided  
1 Tbsp olive oil 

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium sized onion, chopped

2 cups chopped mushrooms

1 cup Chardonnay

1/2 cup grated Parmesano Romano
Kosher salt

The Process:
In a medium-sized saucepan bring the wild rice and water to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 40-45 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Warm the chicken broth in a saucepan over low heat.  Keep warm.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute over medium high heat until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir to coat evenly.

Slowly pour in the white wine and add the mushrooms.  Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, stirring continuously.  Once the wine has been absorbed, add the warm chicken stock, one ladle full at a time, allowing each addition to be fully absorbed before adding the next.  Patience is key.  Stir gently and continuously.

Once about half of the stack has been absorbed, add about one third of the wild rice.  Continue to add the stock, alternating with rice, allowing the broth to be completely absorbed between each addition. 

After the last ladle of stock has been absorbed, and the rice is creamy in texture and slightly al dente, stir in the Parmesano Romano.  Remove the risotto from the heat. Season with salt to taste. Cover and let rest for 3-5 minutes before serving. 

Serve warm with a sprinkling of your favorite herbs.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Hefeweizen Honey Rolls

As a home brewer an beer aficionado, it hardly seems appropriate for Thanksgiving to came and go without some dish using beer.   At first I thought I'd skip the rolls. I already had quite a bit of cooking on my plate.   As the day drew closer I agreed that perhaps some frozen rolls could find their way onto our table.  It wasn't until Jackie at the Beeroness posted her hefeweizen rolls that I know there was no way around it.  I was going to be baking my own rolls.

And I couldn't have been happier about it.

I've heard from more than one source that powder milk creates an incredibly tender roll.  It is the secret to Portuguese sweet bread.  And the beer, aside from adding a bit of flavor, aides in the leavening.  These rolls are so worth it.  You may want to pull them out for more than the occasional holiday.

Adapted from Jackie at

The Ingredients:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 oz active dry yeast
5 cups bread flour
1/4 cup dry milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup beer
4 eggs
4 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp butter, softened

for the glaze:
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp coarse salt

The Process:
In a microwave safe dish, heat the cream in 20 second increments until it is about 110 degrees. Add the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, salt and dry milk powder. Add the cream and the beer, mix until just combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions.  Add the honey and butter and stir until combined. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead for 10-12 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.

Coat the inside of large bowl with oil. Form the dough into a ball place in the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm room until doubled in size.

Turn out the down onto a clean work surface and knead lightly for about 1 minute.

Cut the dough in half, then cut each half in again to form 4 equal sized pieces. Cut each piece in half to create 8 equal sized pieces. Cut in half again to create 16 dough balls.

Roll each piece of dough into balls, place into a baking dish with a bit of space between each roll.  Cover and allow to rise until about doubled in size.

Heat oven to 400 (the perfect time is right after the turkey has been removed to rest)

Combine the melted butter and honey. Brush the top of the rolls with honey butter mixture, sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Port Cranberry Sauce

As I mentioned in an early post, it's not really Thanksgiving dinner without the cranberry sauce.  The roasted beet cranberry sauce didn't' go over so well with Ross a few weeks back, but this one was a hit.

Perhaps is was the alcohol...

adapted from Food & Wine

yields about 2 cups

The Ingredients:
1/2 cup ruby port
Three 1-by-3-inch strips of orange zest, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
3 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar 

The Process:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the port, orange zest and orange juice and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Stir in the cranberries and reduce heat to low.    Simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce is jam-like, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm or at room temperature.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

For our family, Thanksgiving dinner must include sweet potatoes.  Sadly my earliest introduction to this wonderful yam was a concoction of canned sweet potatoes tossed in a casserole with brown sugar, pecans and marshmallows.  And I absolutely adored it.

It wasn't until college that I tried sweet potato in its simple. roasted form.  I was in love with the mellow sweetness of the tuber from that point on.

I may love mashed sweet potatoes more than regular mashed potatoes.  Blasphemy.  I know...

Our Thanksgiving dinner was dotted with apples throughout, and this side dish is no exception.  The blend of savory and subtle sweet paired perfectly with the apple pecan stuffing.  And because the side wasn't overly sweet, we were well prepared for the wonderful praline pumpkin pie my mom had brought up with her.

adapted from Fitness Magazine

serves 6

The Ingredients:
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground allspice
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch rings
2 Tbsp maple syrup

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350. Place the sweet potatoes on a piece of aluminum foil and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Trim the ends and pull off the peels; slice into 1/2-inch rounds.

Butter a 9x9 inch baking dish with half of the butter.  In a small bowl, stir together the cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Arrange one third of the apple rings in the bottom of the casserole and layer half oft eh sweet potatoes on top.  Sprinkle with half the spice mixture and half the maple syrup. Repeat the layers, sprinkling with remaining spice and syrup.  Layer the last third of the apples on top.  Dot with the remaining butter.

 Cover and bake until the apples are tender, about 45 minutes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Honey-Spiced Roast Turkey with Apple Pecan Stuffing

How to prepare the bird is usually the first challenge to any Thanksgiving feast.  If you are even having turkey that is...

A few years back, when the holiday looked as though it was just to included Ross and myself, we opted to try pheasant.  That was an interesting experiment.

This year we were blessed with a visit from my mother and brother, as well as a dear friend of ours from Hawaii who has been spending the last few months in Michigan.  Along with our roommate, we created quite the hodge podge group.  Turkey was a must.  And as word of my cooking enthusiasm has spread, the ante was upped slightly.  All of the classics needed to be present, but a twist was needed.

So back to the bird.  I've brined before with much success.  In fact it may be my favorite way to prep a turkey, but it does require a little more fore thought than simple defrosting the bird usually entails.  So no brine this year.

I love the combination of nuts and fruit in my stuffing.  That is what caused the recipe to first catch my eye.  Once I read through and discovered the sweet and spice glaze on the bird, I was sold.  Most ingredients were staples in my pantry and no fancy culinary tricks or techniques would be needed.

Do keep an eye on the turkey during the last two hours.  The honey causes the skin to brown very quickly, even when loosely covered.  In the end, never uncovered ours and it was still finished nearly an hour earlier than estimated.

It was surprisingly moist and tender, throughout.

adapted from

serves 12

The Ingredients:
for the turkey
12- to 15-lb turkey, thawed
1/3 cup honey
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp chili powder
3/4 tsp ground allspice
3/4 tsp ground cumin

for the stuffing:
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs fresh sage
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1 medium apple, chopped (1 cup)
4-5 cups dried bread cubes
1 1/3 cups apple juice

The Process:
Heat oven to 325°F. 

In a small bowl, combine the honey, butter and spices until well blended.  Starting at back opening of turkey, gently separate skin from turkey breast, using fingers. Try not to puncture the skin over the breast.   Brush half of the honey mixture over turkey breast under skin.  Reserve remaining honey mixture for later.

In large heavy bottomed pot , melt 1/4 cup butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery, thyme and sage. Saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the apple and pecans, cooking another 2-3 minutes.Add the bread crumbs and stir in the apple juice until the stuffing is just moistened.  Remove from heat.  Remove the sage and thyme sprigs.  Allow the stuffing to cool before stuffing the turkey.
Gently stuff the neck area.  Pull the neck skin over the opening and secure with a skewer or toothpick.   Loosely pack the stuffing into the cavity, do not over stuff...the stuffing will expand during cooking.  Twist the wing tip back under the bird and secure the legs, if desired.  Place turkey, breast side up, on rack in shallow roasting pan.  Loosely tent foil over the turkey.

Roast for 4 to 5 hours (or about 20 minutes per pound).   Uncover the turkey and brush with the remaining honey mixture.   Roast for an addition 30 minutes or until a thermometer reads 180°F and juices run clear. Drumsticks should move easily when lifted or twisted.

Place turkey on warm platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Let stand at least 15 minutes for juices to set.  Carve.

Spoon out the stuffing and serve separately.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your turkeys cook through, and bellies be full.
Surrounded by cheer, and by those near and dear,
On today of all days, we set aside selfish ways.
And raise up a toast to what truly means the most.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Have a very blessed fall!

What's on our table today?

Honey Spice Roast Turkey
Apple Pecan Stuffing
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Apple Casserole
Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Corn Casserole
Wild Rice Risotto
Port Cranberry Sauce
Hefeweizen Honey Rolls
Drunken Apple Pie
and Mom's Praline Pumpkin Pie

paired with:
Apple juice
Boom Island Brewery's Silvius, Brimstone and Yule
New Glarius Brewery's Belgian Red and Serendipity
and coffee

We are a very happy and very, very full group today...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Creamy Carrot and Potato Soup

Winter=Soup.  Well, that's not quite true.  I'll make soup year round without batting an eye.  But the cold weather does seem to beg for a hot, sustaining bowl of soup.

One of my favorite parts about soup, aside from eating it, of course, is the realiativley simple prep.  After slicing, dicing and a little bit of sauteeing, you walk away to let the conction simmer.  I'm left with anywhere from half an hour to half a day to work, do chores (oh god, the endless dishes....) or more often than not, waste time online.  Whatever did we do before facebook, pinterest and blogger?  Ugh.  No wonder I was far more productive in high school and college...

This soup does not simmer for long, but is the perfect use for the massive quantities of potatoes and carrots we recently received from our CSA...a 45 pound box of storage veggies will go a long way.  I'm eager to try out other veggie combinations using this recipe as a basis.  Parsnips and sweet potatoes?  How about that rutabaga?  Or even those turnips.  Imagine the color of a bit of shredded beet...

The carrots feature in the flavor of the soup, and also help provide a rich golden cream color.  The potatoes cook down a bit to provide a creamy consistency.  The soup is just as wonderful made vegan...use vegetable stock in lieu of chicken stock, omit the milk and cheese, and substitute the Worcestershire for shoyu, miso or any assortment of other herbs to add that earthy funk.  

It's a filling soup without being heavy.  If you care for something richer, switch out the milk for cream and run a bit of the soup through a food processor.  A bit more potato, and a little less broth will also get you closer to a chowder consistency.  For the fall/winter limbo we seem to be in , I found this soup to be the perfect balance of sustaining and light.  Maybe when the snow finally comes, I'll break out the heavy cream...

adapted from MyKitchenAddition

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
2 Tbsp  olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 lb carrots, peeled and shredded
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups milk
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

The Process:
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart pot.  Add the onions, garlic and celery and saute until the onions are tender and slightly translucent. 

Add the potatoes, carrots and herbs, and saute 2-3 minutes more.  Stir in the broth.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Slowly add in the milk and Worcestershire sauce and stir until heated through, about 5 minutes.  Remove the pot for the heat and sprinkle the cheese on top.  Stir until the cheese has melted as is evenly incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Roasted Beet and Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Grocery stores are pushing their turkeys and hams.  Pie filling, stuffing, spices, cranberry sauce, yams, and other assorted staples burst off of the end caps.  All around the country households are planning their traditional family dinner.  I suspect most read something like this:

Roast turkey
pan gravy
sage and onion stuffing
mashed potatoes
sweet potato casserole
green bean casserole
dinner rolls
pumpkin pie

and of course, cranberry sauce

There must always be cranberry sauce.  

Ross and I have had a tift or two over the proper sauce to serve at Thanksgiving.  I like mine from scratch.  Chunky and spiked with citrus and cinnamon.  And Ross...his prefers from a can.  Homogenous.  Jellied.  And preferably in the ringed log that slides out of the can with a satisfying plop.  We usually compromise.  I make the sauce.  He gets a can of jellied goo to himself.

So knowing a can of cranberry sauce may be close I had, I don't feel so bad for serving this version up.  He'd turn his nose up at the beets anyway.

This cranberry sauce has a very subtle sweetness.  It is far more tart than many other sauces, but feel free to up the honey if you prefer yours a little sweeter.  The beets add an earthy sweetness to balance the tart berries.  The citrus cuts through a bit.  Pecans lend a wonderful toasted crunch to the texture and a dollop of creme fraiche or a sprinkling of soft goat cheese offers a wonderful smoothness that mellows and blends the other flavors.

adapted from a recipe courtesy of Driftless Organics

serves 4-5

The Ingredients:
5-7 small beets
1 Tbsp oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 orange, juice and zest
3 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted pecans
1 oz soft goat cheese or creme fraiche

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 400.  Scrub the beets thoroughly.  Trim the tops and root tips away, do not peel.   Cut the beets into wedges.  Toss with oil, salt and pepper and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast 30-40 minutes until the beets are tender and the outsides are beginning to caramelize.  Set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, orange juice, zest, honey and cinnamon.  Stir and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to burst, 1about 10-15 minutes.  For a less chunky sauce, allow to cook about 5 minutes longer and gently mash the berries with the back of a spoon.  Add the roasted beets and stir to combine.  Transfer to a serving bowl and allow to cool slightly.

Sprinkle with pecans and cheese just prior to serving.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Orange and Currant Scones

The perfect scone is a rare thing in the United States.  Nothing I've tried here can compare to the tea time reposes I tried in many a cafe and museum coffeehouse in London.  Soft, slightly crumbly, tender with the slightest richness from the butter.  Barely sweet.  If nothing else, that is what I remember most vividly.  They were never that sweet.  But presented alongside a generous spoonful of coddled cream and lemon curd, or perhaps modestly served up with sweet butter and a tiny pot of jam, that hardly seemed to matter.

My scones don't come close, but to date this is the best recipe I've tried.  My Scottish in-laws may not be that impressed.  But someday, someday I will discover that ideal scone...

adapted from 1001 Recipes edited by Martha Day

yields 8 scones

The Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
10 Tbsp butter, diced
zest of one orange
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup buttermilk

milk to glaze

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 425 and lightly flour a baking sheet or baking stone

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter.  Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, rub and cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Gentle fold in the zest and currants.  Gradually add in the buttermilk and stir until the flour is just moistened and a soft dough is formed.

Turn the dough out on to a flour surface and roll out into a 9-inch circle, about 1-inch thick. 

Cut the circle into 8 equal wedges and transfer to the baking sheet or baking stone. Keep the circle intact with the cut edges touching.   Brush the top of the dough with milk.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.  Serve warm.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bavarian Pretzel Bites with Beer Cheese Dip

Beer and pretzels.  When Ross and I set the date for our homebrew tasting, Bavarian pretzels were high on the list.  Whilet we were not serving any Martzen or lagers, this soft, chewy Oktoberfest staple seemed only fitting as our finger food and palate cleanser offering.  I scoured several recipes and came across many, many variations.  Most were of a quick and easy variety...attempting to replicate the slightly sweet and overly gresased varieties found at many a mall and corner cart.  Not Bavarian pretzels to say the least.

I had visions of soft, chewy, almost bagel-like interiors caramelized into a leathery, blistery brown skin, dotted with salt and full of pungent yeasty flavor.  Most recipes treated pretzel dough like bread dough...only with shorter to no proofing time and usually relying on egg washes to achieve the exterior.  Somehting didn't bode right about these.

Eventually a reoccuring method begin to pop up among recipes claiming to be more traditional or old world.  Lye.  Baking soda.  Alkalies....

It seems the trick to that memorable chwey interior and gorgeous brown skin is to boil the pretzels in an alkil solution for a mere 20 30 seconds.  In that breif moment the high pH breaks down the surface starches in to much more simple sugars which in turn caramelize in mere minutes in the oven.  The lye is food grade and can be purchased commercially...the heat of thee oven burns off any remaining, so fear not.  I found baking soda worked wonderfully.

The pretzel dough does dry out quickly.  I found having a spritzer of water at hand helped immensely when trying to roll out the ropes.  I did not try my hand at twisting traditional knots.  I did have over thirty people to supply...bite-sized bits seemed far more appropriate.  The recipe will make twelve 8-inch pretzels for the more ambitious. 

The baking soda is intimidating, but so much fun as well.  Dropped the bites in about 8 at a time.  They puffed up like magic within moments, supercharging the yeast before their trip into the oven.  The bite of residue alkali left had a cleansing effervescent quality unlike anything I've ever tasted with an American-style pretzel.  I am eager to try these babies again!

DO use parchment paper.  I learned that the hard way after trying to pry the baked morsels off of the first baking sheet.

DO remmeber to salt them before you bake them, using coarse or sea salt, not kosher salt.  Salt will not stick after the pretzels are baked, even with a brushing of oil, butter or beer. 

DO use the full amount of yeast.  2 Tbsp seems like a lot.  It is.  I snipped the tops off three packages and stirred the whole mess in.  You want the yeast. 

DO make these time and time again.  They will be a huge hit.  One guest, recently recovered from a trip to Germany, insisted I send her the recipe.  She found nothing quite as close to traditional Bavarian pretzels since returning state side.  The

pretzels adapted from the New York Times
Beer cheese dip adapted from Girlichef

yields 96 pretzel bites

The Ingredients:
for the pretzels:
1 Tbsp barley malt syrup or dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp lard or softened unsalted butter
2 Tbsp instant yeast
6 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon  kosher salt
5 cups water
10 Tbsp baking soda
Coarse sea salt or pretzel salt, for sprinkling (do not substitute kosher salt)

for the dip
10 oz beer (preferably a hefeweizen)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp  flour
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
In a large  bowl stir together syrup or brown sugar, lard or butter, yeast, 2 cups warm water and half of the flour. Add kosher salt and remaining flour and stir just until mixture just comes together.

Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Cut into 12 pieces, gently form into balls and loosely cover with cling wrap.  Let rest 5 minutes.

Roll out each piece into a rope about 18 - inches long.  Cut each rope into approximately 8  pieces.  Place on baking sheets and loosely cover with cling wrap. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for one hour

Pre-heat oven to 425.

In a large saucepan mix the water with baking soda. Bring to a boil. Working with about a dozen at a time, place pretzel pieces in the boiling solution for 20 seconds. remove with a slotted spoon and spread out the pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with pretzel salt.

Bake for 8-10  minutes or until golden brown.

Serve immediately.

for the dip

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat bring the beer to a gentle boil.  Toss the cheddar cheese with the flour. Once beer is simmering, whisk in the cheese,cream cheese, mustard, green onions and garlic.  Continue to stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Curried Pumpkin Soup

 Fall!  Pumpkins!  Soup!  Curry!  These are a few of my favorite things...

Light, complex, spicy, smooth and filling.  Deceivingly filling.  You'd be surprised how little soup you need to sate an appetite after an afternoon raking leaves.  And perfect for a gathering when many hungry hands may be idling.  This soup can be made ahead, chilled and re-heated when ready to serve.  Or, transferered into a slow cooker to linger and warm for whenever pepple are ready to eat.

I prefer the slightly sweeter and smokey flavor oven roasted pumpkin lends to recipes, so I opted to replace a portion of the originally recipe's canned pumpkin with my own roasted variety.  The spices are easily modified to accommodate any palate  And the soup does play well with feel free to add more red pepper or a dash or too of hot pepper sauce to liven up the tongue a bit.

adapted from Epicurious

serves 16-18

The Ingredients:
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp oil
3-4  garlic cloves, mince
2-3 -inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp salt
1 small pie pumpkin (2-3 lbs)
1 - 15 oz can pumpkin puree
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 - 15oz can  coconut milk

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 450.  Slice the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet.  Bake for 45-60 minutes,or until soft and beginning to carmelize, flipping cut side up halfway through.  Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Scoop out the softened pumpkin flesh.  Mash slightly for a smoother soup, or leave as scooped for more texture.  

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat, and sautee the onions until soft, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic, sautee 1 minute longer.  Stir in the cumin, coriander, cardamom and cinnamon, mixing until the onions are well coated*.

Add the pepper flakes, salt, canned pumpkin, fresh pumpkin, broth, coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.   For a smooth soup, puree in batches with  food process, or process with an immersion blender, or serve as is.  Thin with additional broth, if desired.

* in lieu of the individual spices, you can substitute 1 Tbsp of your favorite garam masala.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

One Pot Bacon Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese is comfort food, pure and simple.  Gooey, creamy and loaded with carbs.  I don't often make this cheesy bowl of guilt at home...but it is a rare treat when Ross and I go out to eat.  You can learn a lot about a place based on how they prepare and present a simple bowl of noodles and cheese sauce.

The perfect mac and cheese is a highly debated topic.  One I typically avoid.  Favorite variations run the gamut from classic blue box, thick and creamy breadcrumb topped baked casseroles, straight forward one-cheese-wonders, and complex combinations of exotic dairy.  Some like shells.  Others swear by elbows.  Occasionally a rotini fan jumps in.  And the add ins...or they are endless.  Bacon, chilies, tuna, tomatoes, broccoli, peas, chicken...really, it's whatever strikes your fancy.  One of the most unique combinations I've had was at a restaurant in Madison...smokey with a spicy kick...piled over a generous mound of savory pulled pork and baked with a crumb crust....Ross is bound and determined to replicate the recipe one day.

This mac and cheese is not that mac and cheese.

What I do love about this particular dish is its simplicity.  No boiling and straining the pasta.  No b├ęchamel sauce.  One pot.  Simple ratios to remember...equal parts milk and pasta.  Half as much cheese.  Mustard powder, salt and pepper to taste.  And add in extras to your hearts content.  

A few things I've learned making this...rontini pasta works fine, as do elbows, but I adored the way the shells cooked up the best.  Your preference may vary.  But stick with regular pasta...not whole wheat, not protein-enriched or extra-fiber or whatever other clever marketing gimmick is out there to sell 'healthy' pasta right now.  This dish is all carbs and fat.  Embrace it.  The other pastas will not cook up as tender or plump.

Any combinations of cheeses will work.  I love to mix it up with at least three.  Cheddar, jack and gouda are sort of my stand by.   Cheddar/Romano/asiago is grand.  Cheddar/fontina/Gruyere yields and extra creamy sauce.  Pepper jack, Parmesan, blue cheese, Gorgonzola or anything aged or smoked will lend a wonderful depth and a bit of bite.  Of course, the whatever-is-in-the-fridge method works wonderfully too!

One cheesy caveat, not use pre-packaged shredded cheese.  These contain additives to keep the cheese from clumping and will create a grainy texture in your otherwise wonderful dish.  Hand grated is much, much better...

adapted from the White on Rice Couple

serves 3-4 (but only if you know how to share)

The Ingredients:
4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups elbow or shell pasta
2 cups milk (whole yields the creamiest result, skim will work)
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, fontina, Gruyere, Romano, Parmesan,Gouda, etc, etc)
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mustard powder
pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste.

The Process:
In medium saucepan, stir together the milk, pasta butter, mustard powder and salt.

Bring to a gentle simmer over medium low heat, stirring constantly.  Stir, stir, stir!  Allow to simmer until most of the milk has been absorbed and the pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.  Add additional milk in 1/4 cup increments as necessary if the pasta has not cooked fully.

Season with pepper and cayenne to taste.  Sprinkle in the shredded cheese and fold in until the cheese has melted and blended.

Add the bacon.  Cover and rest for 5 minutes off of the heat.  Stir and thin with additional milk, if desired.