THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving Table setting from 2011. This year's to follow shortly

    With a difficult year past, we now serve up some of our traditional favorites, from Pumpkin Soup to Pumpkin Pie.  At this time of year, one thing remains true, and that is the need to gather together, to share memories and to remind ourselves to continue to look forward. In that spirit, this year we celebrate Thanksgiving, with the traditional, yet continue to always add a bit of something new.  As always, we are giving thanks, by celebrating the lives of those who have left us, by continuing to mend friendships, and by renewing our commitment to those we love.  Unlike last year, our menu will be comforting and traditional, but never boaring because at Deb's we always "kick it up a notch". And, of course, in the end, there will be birthday cake!!!  

2012:  The Un-ThanksGiving Birthday Menu:  FIRST COURSE: Carrot & Ginger Soup, Spring Greens Salad & Dijon Vinaigrette.  MEATS:  Ale Brined & Smoked Turkey w/ Sausage Stuffing served with Gravy, and Crown Roast of Pork, served with Cranberry/Horseradish Cream. SIDES:  Pumpkin Strata w/ Mushrooms & Spinach, Country Pineapple Casserole, Eggplant a la Vodka, Whipped Sweet Potatoes & Bananas w/ Pecan Struesel, Roasted Cauliflower w/ Pine Nuts & Dates, Garlic & Onion Mashed Baby Red Potatoes, Mushrooms w/ Garlic & Oil  and Dinner Rolls. Photos and Recipes Below: 

 2013 Thanksgiving Suggestions:  

FIRST COURSE: Pumpkin Soup w/ Cinnamon Créme & Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Mesa Grill & Bobby Flay, of Course) and Roasted Vegetables Salad w/ Dijon Vinagrette;  MEAT COURSE: Deb's Own Ale Brined & Smoked Turkey w/ Sausage Stuffing served with Homemade Turkey Gravy, (alternatively you can make a non-turkey main course such as a Ham, Crown Roast, Cassoulet, or Roasted Prime Rib of Beef, served au jus, or with Cranberry/Horseradish Cream).  SIDES:  Pumpkin Strata w/ Mushrooms & Spinach, Country Pineapple Casserole, Whipped Sweet Potatoes & Bananas w/ Pecan Struesel, Roasted Cauliflower w/ Pine Nuts & Dates, Garlic & Onion Mashed Baby Red Potatoes, Mushrooms w/ Garlic & Oil  and Dinner Rolls. 

Recipes and Photos Below: 

Carrot and Ginger Soup

Deb's Carrot & Ginger Soup

     This is a great make-ahead soup, to save you time on Thanksgiving day.  Its an adaptation I made from a recipe I originally found on food.com.  It can also be frozen, just in case you have leftovers. Its a great way to go through some carrots, or to get some carrots into your kids diet. Definitely double the recipe if you're having company, because they're going to love it.  Garnish it with some fresh snipped green onions and a dab of Greek Honey Yogurt for festive color. 

Ingredients

    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 2 medium onions, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh gingerroot
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced 
    • 6 cups chicken stock or 6 cups vegetable stock
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 1/3 cups plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Directions

  1. In 4-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add gingerroot and cook 2 minutes longer.
  4. Add carrots and stock to onions; heat to boiling over high heat.
  5. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook carrots until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. (Alternately, you can cook the carrots first, then add to stock- no need to thinly slice) Use hand blender to blend carrot mixture, in batches, until smooth.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Heat soup over low heat until hot.
  9. Ladle into bowls and serve.  You can use the combination below as a garnish when serving.
  10. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, honey, thyme and black pepper.

MESA GRILL'S PUMPKIN SOUP, Serves 6-8

     For this recipe there is no one else I would turn to but Bobby Flay.  I have made this pumpkin soup a number of times over the years and it has never failed me.  Everyone loves it, even those who don't like pumpkin, and the pumpkin seeds garnish is a special treat.  I make them ahead and serve them in a bowl, to be passed around when the soup is served.  No one can resist a few extra to munch on "on the side!"  So, with all the credit to Mr. Flay and the Food Network, enjoy my favorite soup recipe.  Its fast and easy.
Pumpkin Soup
INGREDIENTS
4 cups enriched chicken stock or low sodium canned chicken broth or vegetable borth
3 cups pumpkin puree (not flavored pie filling)
1 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons chipotle puree
3/4 cup crème fraiche
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Roasted pumpkin seeds (recipe follows) 
DIRECTIONS
1. Bring 3 cups of the stock to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, honey and chipotle puree. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more stock, if the soup is too thick. 
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1/4 cup of the crème fraiche and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
3. Mix together the remaining crème fraiche and 1 teaspoon cinnamon until combined. 4. Ladle the soup into four bowls; drizzle with the cinnamon crema and sprinkle with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Makes 1 cup
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. Toss the seeds with the oil and season with salt to taste. Spread the seeds evenly on a baking sheets and bake for 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until they are lightly golden brown and crisp. Let cool. Can be made 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container.

Deb's Family's Antipasto Salad, Serves 8-10

   This Antipasto Salad is a holiday dish in our family. However I have also used it as a light antipasto in the summer at a barbeques (no mayo to spoil). It also travels well if you are bringing a dish to someone else's house. I would serve it along with 2 or 3 cheeses and some good crackers or flatbreads. It simplifies the making of a tray of antipasto, giving you all the taste and none of the work.
INGREDIENTS:
3 jars of roasted red peppers packed in oil
(I like Rao's with pignoli nuts and raisins for the flavor)
3 cans jumbo pitted black olives
1 jar spanish olives, drained
3 cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
OR 3 jars of artichoke hearts in oil
2 jars marinated mushrooms
*Optional Ingredients:
bite size chunks of cold cuts and/or parmigana reggiano
hot or sweet cherry peppers
picante peppers
kalamata olives
stuffed olives
roasted garlic cloves
stuffed grape leaves, cut in half
and so on.....
whichever you choose, be sure to drain the liquid before adding.

**You can easily cut this recipe in thirds to serve 3 or 4 people, two-thirds to serve 6-8 people, and as written to serve a crowd!
Directions:
Drain one jar of the roasted red peppers and add all three jars to a large mixing bowl including the oil in the other 2 jars. Cut into bite sized pieces or slice the peppers into strips. Add all the other ingredients, plus whichever optional ones you chose. Mix gently and place in serving bowl.
You can make this a day before, just be sure to add the cheese on the day you are going to eat it and mix well before you serve it.

 

Crown Roast of Pork Recipe

Photo by SimplyRecipes.com

     You will need to special order the roast already prepped and tied from your butcher.
Do not rely on cooking time to know when the roast is done. Cooking times vary depending on the size of the roast, how many ribs, your particular oven. Invest in a meat thermometer before attempting a roast like this.
 
Ingredients
1 8-9 pound crown roast of pork (14 to 22 ribs, depending on how meaty the ribs), Frenched and prepped by butcher
1 Jar Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic (this is my preferred seasoning for pork) OR:
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup water
 
Basic Apple Stuffing:
4 cups cubed day-old bread (3/4-inch cubes)
1/2 pound Italian sausage meat
Butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 pound tart Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh chopped sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 
Method
1. Mix together the roast seasonings of thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Rub all over the roast. Let roast sit (wrapped) at room 1. temperature for an hour before roasting.
2. Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in the pan, add the cubed bread, and stir to coat the bread pieces with the melted butter. Let bread cubes toast; only turn them when they have become a little browned on a side.
3. Heat a large (4 to 6-qt) pan on medium high heat. Sprinkle a little salt on the bottom of the pan. Breaking of inch-sized chunks, add the Italian sausage to the pan, taking care not to crowd the bottom of the pan. Do not stir, just let cook until browned on one side, then flip the sausage over and brown on the other side. When browned, use a slotted spoon to remove, set aside.
4. You should have at least a tablespoon of fat in the pan, if not, add some butter. Heat the pan to medium high. Add the onions and celery and cook until onions are translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped apples and cook for a few minutes more. Add back in the browned sausage, the butter toasted bread cubes, parsley, thyme, and sage. Gently mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the crown roast in a shallow roasting pan. Fill the center of the crown loosely with stuffing (do not pack in the stuffing). Whatever extra stuffing you have, place in a separate, buttered, oven proof pan. Cover the tips of the ribs with aluminum foil to prevent scorching of the bones. Add one cup water to the pan.
6. Roast pork on middle rack of oven. Cover the stuffing with foil after about 30 minutes. Cook until a meat thermometer inserted deep into center of meat (do not touch bones, which are on the outside of the roast) registers 150°F, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours total.
7. Add 1/2 cup of water to the remaining stuffing, and bake it (next to or under roast, starting 30 minutes before roast is done, or while the roast is resting), covered with foil, 30 minutes.
 
Transfer pork to a platter and let stand 20 minutes. To carve the pork, steady the roast with a fork, with a large sharp knife, cut down through each rib to detach the pork chops.
Yield: Serves 10-12.

Ale Brined, Smoked Turkey

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon hot water
  • 1 pound kosher salt
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1 pound sugar 
  • 1 (7-pound) bag of ice
  • 1 bottle Amber Beer
  • 1/4 c. Peppercorns
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 1 (15 to 20-pound) turkey cleaned, with giblets removed
  • Vegetable oil, for rubbing turkey

Directions

Combine the hot water and the sugar & salt in a 54-quart cooler. Stir until the salt dissolves. Stir in the remaining cold water. Add the ice and stir. Place the turkey in the brine, breast side up, and cover with cooler lid.  Brine overnight, up to 12 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse and dry thoroughly. Rub the bird thoroughly with the vegetable oil and melted butter, then rub with your favorite seasoning.  I like a rub of mixed herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and a bit of chili powder.  Try and get the seasonings under the skin without puncturing the skin.

Heat the grill to 400 degrees F.

Using a regular gas grill, and a smoking box or double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil, build a smoke bomb. Place a cup of mesquite wood chips in the box or the center of the foil and gather up the edges, making a small pouch. Leave the pouch open at the top. Set this directly on the charcoal or on the metal bar over the gas flame. Set the turkey over indirect heat.  For example, on my grill I have three burners.  I heat them all, then turn off the middle burner. 

I put the turkey in a roasting pan, on a rack, with about an inch or so of chicken broth below the rack.  I cover with foil, trying not to touch the bird, and leaving the foil open at each end so the smoke can get in.  Once the turkey heats up a bit, I adjust the heat so the grill remains at about 275 or 300 degrees.  For an 18lb bird, stuffed, this will take about 3 - 5 hours to cook.  Check periodically so the broth does not evaporate, as you don't want to scorch the bottom of your bird or pan.  You should check your bird every hour; if the skin is too golden brown, cover the breast tightly with aluminum foil sprayed with pam and continue cooking. Also, after 1 hour, replace wood chips with second cup if your smoke is decreasing.

Once the bird reaches 160 degrees F, remove from grill, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 1 hour. Carve and serve.

Italian Sausage Stuffing and/or Dressing

     Our stuffing recipe is not a secret.  In fact, its been shared time and time again, and so many different families make it that I don't believe its an Italian recipe.  Its just that we use italian sausage.  You can use any sausage you prefer.  Our recipe makes so much that we can stuff our turkey, bake some in a tray for "Dressing," and still have some leftover to freeze and use sometime later during the year.  Why?  It just is.  Its simple, quick and delicious; and 50 years later we're still eating it, so something has to be right.

Ingredients:  4 - 6 lbs Italian Sausage (I mix hot and sweet); about 1 c. grated parmesan cheese, 2 or 3 tbs Italian Seasoning, 2 tbsp minced garlic, 2 generous handfuls parsley, 6 - 8 eggs beaten well, about 1 gallon of plain chicken or vegetable broth (or water if you prefer).  Note: there are no veggies in this stuffing.  If you are going to add onions, celery, carrots or the like, feel free, just saute' them first.  And, finally, Bread.  I like to use a mix of plain bread cubes (enough to fill a large aluminum tray) that I get at Whole Foods.  You can use any unseasoned stuffing mix, or 6 - 8 loaves of day-old Italian or french bread, torn up into pieces. 

Method:  Fry the sausage (I take it out of the casing, but its up to you) until browned and cooked through, and let it cool.  In a large bowl or tray, Mix all the remaining ingredients into the bread cubes until well distributed, then add sausage and mix again.  Taste for seasoning and you're done. 

IMPORTANT:  DO NOT STUFF YOUR TURKEY UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO COOK IT!  I brine and then stuff and smoke my turkey on the grill.  I've never had a problem cooking it through.  Same with the oven.  The rest of it goes into a baking dish, and I pour some extra chicken stock on top and bake it in the oven. 

Enjoy. 

STANDING CROWN PRIME RIB OF BEEF, Serves 8-10

    Then, there are just those times when you're having too many people for one turkey to feed, or maybe you don't like turkey, or maybe you just want to show off.  In any situation this stunning standing rib roast is the way to go.  You can't go wrong.  
INGREDIENTS
3 1/2 teaspoons salt 
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly coarse ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of minced garlic or garlic paste
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 prime rib roast of beef 
   (a 7 rib roast is the largest, and comfortably fed 14 people, so you can calculate 1 bone for 2-3 people)    Have your butcher cut off the bottom ribs, then tie them back on. This way you will still have the standing roast, a built in rack, and delicious ribs on the side when done!
 
DIRECTIONS:
1 Let the uncooked roast rest at room temperature for 3 hours before cooking. Do not remove the fat because it will melt and baste the roast as it is cooking.
2 Preheat your oven to 500°F. Take all the ingredients listed above (except the roast) and mix together in a small bowl. You should have a paste like consistency. If you don't, add more olive oil. Generously rub the paste all over the roast.
3 Place the roast, fat side up, rib side down in a roasting pan in the oven.
4 After 15 minutes on 500°F, reduce the heat to 350°F. To figure out the total cooking time, allow about 13-15 minutes per pound for rare and 15-17 minutes per pound for medium rare. The actual cooking time will depend on the shape of the roast and your particular oven. A flatter roast will cook more quickly than a thicker one. So use an instant read meat thermometer. Err on the rare side, you can always cook it longer.
5. Roast in oven until thermometer registers 115°-120°F for rare or 125°-130°F for medium.

Check the temperature of the roast using a meat thermometer a half hour before you expect the roast to be done. For example, with a 10 pound roast, you would expect 2 1/2 hours of total cooking time (15 minutes at 500° and 2 1/4 hours at 325°). In this case, check after 2 hours of total cooking time, or 1 hour 45 minutes after you lowered the oven temp to 325°.

Once the roast has reached the desired internal temperature, remove it from oven and let rest 20 minutes, covered with aluminum foil, before carving. The roast will continue to cook while it is resting.

Enjoy this one! As you can see from the photo, it makes a great presentation, and its irresistible.

Deb's Version of Cassoulet (with pork & chicken)

     This is my absolute favorite casserole and although I've never made it for Thanksgiving.  Its so rich and full of flavor, it tastes like it baked all day, and mostly it did. It will take a while, but it does not have to be a 2-day process as you would find in France.  Normally you would use dried white beans, start working a day ahead (as dried beans need to soak 8 hours, then bake 2 hours). Knowing how impatient I am, my fans will understand that I've found that to be unnecessary.  I've used caned Progresso Cannellini beans (just rinse well & drain, no soaking), so I can be done in just a few hours.** You can make it mostly the day before and finish it in the oven when you're ready to serve.  You really do need a large heavy pot or Dutch oven for this dish, so if you don't have one, borrow one. 

6 cans Progresso cannellini beans
1 (1-pound) boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided 
1 tablespoon canola oil 
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (about 2 medium) 
1 cup thinly sliced carrot (about 1/2 pound) 
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped 
2 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1 celery stalk 
1 thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
8 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 cups fat free chicken broth
5 chicken legs (about 2 1/2 pounds) (For Chicken Confit - directions below)
Cooking spray
3/4 pound diced pork shoulder or pork sausage
1 (1-ounce) slice white bread 

Preparation
     1. Rinse and drain beans.
     2. Sprinkle pork pieces with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil (or the fat from your confit of chicken or duck) in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. Remove pork from pan; reduce heat to medium. Add onion and carrot to pan; cook 8 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and tomatoes; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Tie twine around parsley, celery, thyme, and bay leaf to secure. Add pork, beans, 4 cups broth, 2 cups water, and herb bundle to 
pan. Bring to a simmer; cook, covered, for 2 hours or until beans are tender. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. 
Cool bean mixture to room temperature.
     3. Meanwhile Preheat oven to 400°. Arrange chicken legs in a 9 x 9–inch baking dish with a 1/4c. concentrated chicken stock. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes or until thoroughly cooked and fat melted. Remove skin and meat from bones; shred meat into large pieces. Discard skin and bones, and reserve the Confit (fat) for later.
     5. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
     6. Bring bean mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat; stir in duck. Bring 
remaining 4 cups broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan; pour evenly over 
bean mixture. Bake at 325° for 2 hours. Reduce oven to temperature to 275°.
     7. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with 1/4 c. confit fat. 
Add sausage to pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. 
Cool slightly; cut into 1-inch pieces. Stir bean mixture; add sausage 
pieces.

     8.  For topping:  Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup. (I simply used panko crumbs)  Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over cassoulet. Bake at 275° for 1 1/2 hours. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

**For those of you traditionalists who just read this and think I'm crazy: Yes, I do know that a true cassoulet requires duck/duck confit and 2 days of work, and maybe even a real French Chef.  But I promise, this one is damned good!

Adapted from Recipe by Molly O'Neill, Cooking Light
DECEMBER 2009

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER W/ GRAPES, Serves 4 - 6

photo by Food Network Magazine

     I'm always looking for new flavors and color combinations to brighten up our Thanksgiving table, since most of what we serve is either beige, brown or green.  This dish is not only delicious, but bright and beautiful. I'll double the recipe for our dinner. A little squeeze of lemon just before placing in serving bowl would be just perfect!
 
INGREDIENTS 
1 head Cauliflower
1 1/2 c. grapes
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Capers (or Spanish Olives quartered)
1 Tsp grated lemon zest
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets (about 1” in size), the slice grapes in half.
  2. Dice the olives into quarters if you are not using capers
  3. Toss all ingredients together, and spread on a large baking sheet.  Roast approximately 25 minutes, until florets begin to brown.  

Whipped Sweet Potatoes, Honey & Bananas

Photo: Food Network

     This recipe is by Tyler Florence, at The Food Network.  I double it for our Thanksgiving, and its still the first thing to go and the most requested dish!  I roast the potatoes and bananas ahead of time, and put it all together.  Then, just before serving I heat it up in the oven, add the pecan struesel for the last 10 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 5 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 4 bananas, unpeeled
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

 Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, put them in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Toss the bananas into the pan and continue roasting for 10 to 15 minutes, until both the bananas and potatoes are very soft. Remove the pan from the oven but don't turn the oven off.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl. Peel the bananas and add them to the bowl along with 1 stick of the butter, and the honey. Season with salt and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until everything's well combined and the mixture is fluffy. Spoon into an oven-proof serving bowl and smooth the top.

In a separate mixing bowl, use your fingers to rub together the remaining stick of butter, the brown sugar, flour, and pecans until the mixture is the consistency of coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the sweet potatoes and return to the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the crumbs are golden. Serve hot.

Savory Pumpkin Strata w/ Mushrooms & Spinach

photo adapted from saymmm.com

     This recipe was adapted from the sweet dessert recipe I found at Epicurious.com - country bread soaked with rich custard and warm spices, and adapted it into a savory side dish to accompany our Turkey/Pork Un-holiday Dinner.

Yield: Makes 12 servings
Active Time: 15 min
Total Time: 1 hr min

3 cup milk
2 1/2 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs plus 2 yolk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 lb sliced mushrooms, 2 bags baby spinach, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1/4 c. diced onions, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

8 - 10 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted (or olive oil)

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Whisk together cream, pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, and spices in a bowl.

In a wide frying pan saute mushrooms in a bit of olive oil until browned and most of the water in the mushrooms has evaporated; add onions, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper and spinach and stir abour 1 minute, just until spinach wilts.  Add to pumpkin mixture. 

Toss bread cubes with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 9 x 13 inch baking dish and bake until custard is set, 30 - 45 minutes.

Country Pineapple Casserole (from allrecipes.com)

    Yes, this really is as easy as it looks, and just as delicious as it is easy!

Ingredients:  1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened2 cups sugar8 eggs2 (20 ounce) cans crushed pineapple, drained3 tablespoons lemon juice10 slices day-old white bread, cubed

Directions:  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. stir in pineapple and lemon juice. Fold in the bread cubes. Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until set.

Savory Spinach, Artichoke & Brie Casserole

     I have found that this has become a family favorite, and everyone who tastes it loves it.  The flavors meld together purposely, so that you almost don't know exactly what you are eating.  It graces our Thanksgiving table almost every year, and its one of the first things to go.  Its great for a family get together, and perfect for a buffet.  Don't be disuaded by the list of ingredients, that's Emeril!  I have made a few adaptations, so its easier than you think and still wonderful! 

  • INGREDIENTS
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds spinach, washed (3 cups cooked and roughly chopped) ( used washed baby spinach, fresh)
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (I used one bag frozen chopped onions)
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Emeril's Italian Essence, or other Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 (8 1/2-ounce) cans quartered artichoke hearts, any tough outer leaves removed (DRAINED)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I used half n half)
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I used the fat free organic in a box)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 12 to 14 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old French bread (at least 1 loaf)
  • 1 pound Brie, rind removed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I found I needed to buy extra brie, and be sure its very gold before you cut off the rinds, then use a cheese knife [the one with the holes in it] to cut the brie)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with deep sides (at least 3 inches) with Pam.

  • DIRECTIONS

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water. Once cool, squeeze as much water from spinach as possible, then roughly chop, and reserve.

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until golden brown and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, 2 teaspoons of Italian Essence, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the drained artichokes and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.

  • In a very large bowl combine the eggs, cream, chicken stocklemon juice, remaining 1 tablespoon Italian Essence, remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the bread, spinach, artichoke mixture, brie, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and parsley and stir to combine. If bread does not absorb all of liquid immediately then let rest until this happens, about 20 minutes.

  • Pour the bread pudding mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan over the top and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake until firm in the center and golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve warm.  (also good at room temperature for a buffet.  I'll even eat it cold)

MUSHROOM & POLENTA LASAGNA, Serves approx. 6 people

recipe and photo adapted from Food Network Magazine.

      Here is another recipe I came across recently, and when you taste it, it will melt in your mouth, exploding with fantastic yet subtle flavors.  If you're not a mushroom lover, you can substitute lightly sauteed spinach, kale or another favorite vegetable.  But here, the combination of mushrooms, creamy polenta and cheese will take your breath away.  Enjoy!!
 
INGREDIENTS
For The Sauce:
2 1/2 lbs assorted mushrooms, trimmed & quartered (stems removed) 
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 c. chopped onion, 1 tbsp garlic, dash red pepper flakes
1 15oz can crushed tomatoes, 2 c. unsalted chicken broth, 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley and Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste
For The Lasagna:
2 1/2 c. instant polenta; 1 c. grated parmesan cheese;
2 large eggs, lightly beaten; 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and 
3 c. grated part skim mozzarella Cheese
 
DIRECTIONS
  1.  Start the sauce by cleaning the assorted mushrooms; add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet and sauté half the mushrooms over med-high to high heat.  Let them sit in pan undisturbed until slightly browned on the bottom (3 to 4 minutes), stir and cook an additional few minutes until soft.  Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining mushrooms.  We do this so the mushrooms become browned rather that steamed if you add too many at once.  
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining butter and olive oil to skillet.  Add chopped onions and cook approximately 5 minutes until translucent, adding garlic and red pepper flakes for the last minute or 2 of cooking.  Add tomato paste and stir until darkened.  Add the reserved mushrooms, crushed tomatoes and and salt. Add half of the chicken broth (reserving the rest to bring your sauce to desired consistency.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and add fresh parsley, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. In a stock pot, bring 7 cups of water to a boil and cook polenta as per package directions, stirring often, until water is all absorbed.  Remove from heat and whisk vigorously while adding parmesan cheese, nutmeg and eggs.  Temper the eggs first by adding tablespoons of polenta to the eggs, heating them slowly so they don’t scramble, then pour into pot.  
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 4 quart baking dish with cooking spray and spread 1/3 of the polenta to cover the bottom of the dish.  Add 1/2 of the mushroom sauce.  Sprinkle with 1c. mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layers of polenta, sauce mozzarella, then top with remaining polenta.  (you can thin polenta with water if it becomes too thick to spread. 
  5. Cover loosely with foil and bake until bubbly, 50 minutes to an hour.  Uncover and top with remaining mozzarella and place under broiler until cheese is melted - watching carefully - a minute or two.  Let stand for 15 minutes, the sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.  

Crock Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes

 This is one of my favorite holiday or party recipes. It's so delicious, everyone loves mashed potatoes, and very easy, with just five ingredients. There is little need to tend it, and it will stay hot for hours. Make it for Thanksgiving or a winter potluck party.

Ingredients:
•3 lb. small red potatoes
•5 garlic cloves, minced
•1 onion, finely chopped
•2 Tbsp. olive oil
•1 tsp. salt
•1/8 tsp. pepper
•2/3 cup water (or chicken broth)
•1 cup cream cheese with onions and chives, softened (or yogurt)
•2 Tbsp. butter
•1/3 to 1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream

Preparation:
Halve or quarter potatoes to make pieces about the same size. Place potatoes
in a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Add garlic, onion, oil, salt, pepper, and water
(or chicken broth) and mix to coat. Cover crockpot and cook on high for
3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours until potatoes are tender.
Mash potatoes roughly with a fork or potato masher. Stir in cream cheese and
butter until mixed, then add enough milk or cream for desired consistency.
You can serve this right away, or cover and hold it in the slow cooker up to
2 hours on low. Makes 14 1/2 cup servings

If you have a new hotter cooking crockpot, check this after 2-1/2 hours. You
might also want to stir the potatoes after 1-1/2 hours to prevent over
browning or burning.

Roasted Cauliflower w/ Dates & Pine Nuts

Recipe (Claire Robinson) & Photo adapted from foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 8 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Evenly spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and roast, tossing once with a spatula, until golden brown at the edges, about 20 minutes.

Put the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Once it's melted, add the pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until they're lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and dates and continue cooking until they're softened, 2 to 3 minutes more; season with salt.

Transfer the hot cauliflower to a serving bowl, drizzle the pine nut mixture over the top and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and serve warm or at room temperature.

Cranberry Horseradish Cream

Recipe & Photo courtesy foodnetwork.com

Directions
Empty a 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries into a saucepan and transfer 1/2 cup to a small bowl. Add 1 cup sugar, 1 strip orange or lemon zest and 2 tablespoons water to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about
10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the reserved cranberries.
Fold in 3/4 cup sour cream and 1 to 2 teaspoons horseradish. Chill before serving.

Eggplant a la Vodka

30 Slices of Fried Eggplant (This time I bought them already cooked at Ivarrone.  If you are making this yourself, you will need about 5 large eggplant, sliced thin.  I lightly bread them and bake them in the oven to cut down on the fat).

2 Quarts of Vodka Sauce, heated.  recipe to follow

Method:  Place a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a shallow 9 x 13 baking dish, then a double layer of eggplant; spread a layer of vodka sauce (and cheese if you are using that); repeat 2 more times, ending with sauce.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until hot and bubbling. 

Today I made a lactose free vodka sauce: Saute 2 cups chopped onions, and 1 c. diced bacon or pancetta until onions begin to caramelize; add 2 tbsp garlic, 1 tbsp Italian seasoning, 2 large cans Crushed Tomatoes and 1/2 c. Vodka.  Let simmer about 1 hour.  When ready to assemble, add 1 cup Vanilla Yogurt to sauce and heat.  Done!

 

PUMPKIN PIE PARFAITS

photo adapted from Food Network Magazine.

        I loved this photograph in Food Network Magazine, and I just had to share the recipe, of course, with a few changes to make it more suitable to our palate. Initially the recipe called for butternut squash puree.  I think this one is better.  Not only does it look beautiful, but its so simple even I can put it together.  No cooking involved.
 
INGREDIENTS
2 lg. can Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Filling
4 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
2 14oz cans whole cranberry sauce
2 cups Cool Whip 
4 Graham crackers, coarsely crushed
DIRECTIONS
  1.  Whisk together pumpkin pie filling, honey and cinnamon.
  2. To assemble, layer in a clear cocktail or parfait glasses as follows:  2 Tbsp pumpkin mixture, 2 Tbsp cranberries, then 2 Tbsp cool whip. Repeat, ending with cool whip and a sprinkle of graham crackers. 
  3. Refrigerate until serving time, garnish with a graham cracker triangle and cranberry.