Thanksgiving

So I have mostly always made my same Thanksgiving appetizer, and I have to say it really is pretty much amazing. Sweet potato biscuits with ham and horseradish cream.  Just going to say, thank you once again to JW because this was all him. He was the best caterer for UNC-Chapel Hill while I was there and I totally took the idea and ran with it.DD_0184

Even so, I wanted to find a new appetizer for this Thanksgiving. But I do think I will make my small little sweet potato biscuits with all the best things, just because I can. But maybe this year my excellent cranberry sauce will be part of this mix.  Indeed.

That said, I have been looking for Thanksgiving appetizers – they all seem to involve cranberries or Rosemary – thank you most overwhelming pinterest. Sigh. Do love some Rosemary, but isn’t there anything else?

When I was young, Thanksgiving was a huge deal at our house. The only downer part about it was being stuck at the kids’ table. Really? Ugh. I understand that my older brother and sister were a LOT older and were pretty much married by the time I was 9-ish, but I was stuck with my younger sister and nieces and nephews – it was just insulting.

One of those weird things that I remember was a glass dish that my mother would take out for Thanksgiving and put gerkins on one side and olives on the other. Olives = ick. Gerkins = loved them. Besides Bread ‘n Butter pickles, gerkins were the only pickles I ever liked.

I  can totally see that glass dish. Should have asked for it long ago and now it is too late. Let that be a lesson – do not wait –  ask for what you want from your parents because if you do not you will be forever disappointed. I know I will be giving things away very early – like my Dad’s mom did. Simplify everything.

That just got slightly strange – but on to the Thanksgiving plans. And planning is involved – lots of it.

Apparently spell check does not like the word gerkins. No, it sure doesn’t.

So we are about a week-ish out from the big day and, my friends, this is go time.

1. Make decisions on what to make and how much depending on your guest list – my list, this year, is small. But that is not a bad thing because The Boy will be joining us and that makes me very happy.

2. Develop a grocery list of what you need and when you need to buy it. And then develop the “making” list – ie. when you can/will make each thing, but do what I do … plan for a catch up day on the Wednesday before the big day. That day, with nothing planned, will save you.

3. Order your turkey from the butcher shop. And also call your favorite bakery to order Parker House Rolls – I have been doing this forever. No need to make yourself crazy at this point. They will, pretty much, be better than anything you can make – unless you are making biscuits for Thanksgiving – and in that case, I salute you.

4. Pick one, just one, no seriously just one, new recipe to try. I will try.

5. Figure out what appetizer to make. Just don’t go overboard – less is more in this case. See above.

6. Add staples (butter, eggs, heavy cream, lemons, chocolate chips, local pecans, etc.) to your regular grocery list.

7. Watch grocery ads for Thanksgiving specials. Traditional there are lots of them. Hello fresh cranberries.

8. Decide if you want girkins. Hope you do for my sake.

Thermopen

This was a bit of a splurge but it has been so well worth it.  I first saw this instant-read thermometer on America’s Test Kitchen and did not order it at first because the price put me off. I had a little thermometer that I really kind of liked and it worked just fine, but it was a bit pokey in indicating temperature and kind of meh, but it was ATK best buy and I did get along with that for several years.  So when America’s Test Kitchen sent an email that they were giving a discount on their “most trusted” Thermopen, I just had to go for it.

And I am glad I did. I am beyond thrilled with my Thermopen. No kidding. It is great for casseroles and even better for meat temperatures.D&D_0320But it is best for me for pound cakes. I know the skewer thing works, but this makes me feel so much better.

Nothing worse than slicing into a pound cake and finding out it is a bit raw inside. Blech. Yeah really blech.

Pear and Cheddar Crisp

6 cups peeled and sliced Bosc pears- about 5 pears
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish. Okay – how do you decide what is a 2 quart casserole dish — it is 8 cups, but … annoying. Just give me a measurement of the dish – I mean really – ugh.

Toss pears with lemon juice in a bowl. Combine 1/2 cup light brown sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon together in a separate bowl. Add sugar mixture to pears; toss to coat. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish – totally sprayed this with cooking spray. Sprinkle pear mixture with Cheddar cheese.

Combine flour and 1/2 cup light brown sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Cut butter into flour mixture until crumb consistency. Sprinkle topping over Cheddar cheese layer.

Bake in the preheated oven until top is golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Source: Allrecipes.com

Interesting that the original recipe said this was an odd combination – Really? No. This was really good, granted, I made a couple modifications, but I think that is allowable based on taste. I have a couple of quibbles though.

D&D_1145This did not work in the cheese flavor department, which was really disappointing because I love pears (or apples) with cheddar. Will have to figure out how to do that better. And, this is no criticism, but I want a little more crunch in the “crisp” part and I think either walnuts, or maybe almonds should work for that.

A 2 quart dish is an 8 cup dish, and according to conversion charts can be a 9 inch round cake pan (thank you again William Sonoma). That is what I used and to be honest, I think something slightly smaller in size, to make it a bit thicker would have been good. Notes for next time. And there will be a next time. I have two Bosc pears and a Granny Smith apple and I think I will be doing this again.

Thing of the Year 2015 – Get it Right spatula

I have suffered through many a bad spatula (haven’t we all?) in my time in the kitchen. But never again! At the end of 2014 the New York Times had a gift guide for Food. In which they had some strange things on their list  – Macaron purse?, Whisk necklace?, although a baking steel which I already have – is totally practical for pizza. So as I am checking out the list I found the holy-friggin’- grail of spatulas. No, I am not kidding. I may be the biggest Get it Right fan, um, ever. I purchased my first spatula in December of 2014 –  yellow – one of my favorite colors, and have added to the collection all of 2015. And as I add them, I get rid 0f all the inferior spatulas that I have – there were many. Sad, but true.

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Best Spatulas EVER – Get it Right

It is kind of amazing when you do not realize that you are dealing with an inferior product until you get one that is damn-near perfect. Yes, I spend $15 for a spatula, but the first one (yellow) convinced me, and these spatulas are awesome! And there is no shipping — if you spend more than $10.00 –  that’s a deal!

Let me expand on the concept. These are pharmaceutical grade silicone (“Because we love you.” love it!) unibody food-safe silicone, dishwasher-safe spatulas. They are BPA free (I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing – right?), and heat proof to 464 degrees (wish I knew how to make the cute little degree symbol). And to me, the “ultimate size” fits my kind-of small hands. They really just work for me on all sorts of levels.

So at first I just added to the “lemon” one with “lime” and “orange” and then it got colder and I went “black.” Then this winter wasn’t (to start with) too horrible, but rainy, so I added “grey” and a hopeful “teal blue.”  I really need a red one and I would love if there was a Navy blue one (anyone listening??). We will not talk about the “bacon” ones. Who was smoking something that night? Just asking.

I love that there is so much science in the way these are made and you can read more (and probably understand more than I do) at the Geek Out page. Pretty cool, even if I don’t quite get it. All I know is I love these spatulas – that seems like hyperbole, but I do not say this lightly. They are now a fixture in my kitchen. I hope to encourage others to give them a try. They are so totally worth it.

Get it Right – can I come and hang out with you guys? (I know no science, but do love excellent design). I have ideas. Or maybe we can have beer or two. Just a thought.

 

 

 

Butter Usage – by month (December 2015)

2 December – 16 Tbs Rugelach – this dough works …

8 December – 4 Tbs – Rugelach filling – but the filling does not.

11 December – 4 Tbs – Rugelach filling – again did not – annoying – total failure – should really do a better job of reading the comments.

12 December – 8 Tbs – Banana Nut Bread – competition

14 December – 8 Tbs – Brownie Cookie

17 December – 8 Tbs – Glazed Lemon Cookies

19 December – 16 Tbs – Butterscotch Blondies

20 December – 4 Tbs – Everyday Orzo – yes. Again.

20 December – 12 Tbs – Lime Sugar Cookies

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Lime Sugar Cookies – pretty damn amazing.

23 December – 2 Tbs – Cheddar-Stuffed Mushrooms

23 December  – 13.5 Tbs – Sunday Sweet Potatoes

23 December – 16 Tbs – Walnut/Pecan Tassies

25 December – 1 Tbs – Toasted Banana Nut Bread

26 December – 12 Tbs – Sweet Potato Biscuits

29 December – 8 Tbs – The Browniest Cookies See Above.

30 December – 13 Tbs – Chess Tart

Total 145.5 Tbs = 18.1875 sticks = 4.5468875 pounds

Not my best month this year, but a damn good month by any measure.

I’m a bit frightened by what the total for the year will be if this is any indication. I may not keep up with this again, or maybe I’ll add keeping up with eggs too in 2016. Again, slightly frightening. But what the hell – makes for an excellent recap in an odd sort of way.

 

 

Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

It is, to me, really nice to find a recipe that I haven’t made in a while that really stands the test of time. I made this the first time over 8 years ago. Had set it aside for 6 years for no particular reason – just didn’t think to make it and a few weeks ago I had some stuffed mushrooms at an event and thought, Why haven’t I made any of these lately? No particular reason.  So I looked through the recipes I had and noticed all my notes about this recipe – things like, “easy” and “vg” (my shorthand, thanks to Bridget Jones’s Diary — the book, very good), and that both the MotH and his father liked it. So I thought what the hell, but let’s see if we can prep one day or so ahead and bake the day I wanted them. I know they are good warm or room temperature. Most stuffed mushrooms are – they are forgiving if nothing else. Notes of how to do this ahead of time below – dead simple. D&D_1060

1 lb button or crimini mushrooms, or a mix of both- this time crimini
5 Tbs unsalted butter / divided / 3 & 2
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely fresh bread crumbs – 1 slice of bread whirred in the food pross monster*
Salt / freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees – if you are baking immediately.

Wash mushrooms**, let dry on paper towels. Remove stems and finely chop them.

Finely chop walnuts and parsley and add to a medium bowl. Mix in bread crumbs and cheese. Season with freshly cracked black pepper.

Heat 3 Tbs of butter on medium and add onion and shallot. Sauté for a few minutes. When aromatics are starting to get soft, add mushroom stems and a nice pinch of salt and cook until liquid is release and the pan begins to dry just a bit. Let cool.  Add cheese / bread crumb mixture.

Here is where I deviated a bit and hopes it works – update – it did. I put the mushroom caps in a zip top bag with a couple of paper towels and plan to hold them there for a day and a half. I let all the stuffing pieces come to room temperature and then refrigerated it to stuff the mushrooms for Christmas Day appetizer.

The plan is to put the mushrooms on a baking dish, brush the with butter as in the original recipe then fill them or stuff them,  as it were, with the cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Source: No earthly idea – long before I started keeping up with those sorts of things. Or blogging about food.

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Update – So took the stuffing mix out of the fridge for about 30 minutes. I did put the mushroom caps on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and filled them pretty well, but totally forgot to brush with butter. It was not a problem at all. That step, in my opinion, can be skipped unless you just want to do that.

* Had not thought of this phrase in ages. When I used to make things in the food processor, I would prepare the Boy by saying I was about to use the food pross monster. How that, in and of itself, didn’t scare him, I don’t know, but the noise didn’t bother him because he knew it was coming. That was my sad little 4 cup food processor, but it did what I needed at the time. Things you forget.

** AB says it is okay to rinse mushrooms. And I do it and have never had a problem with it. Just rinse them in a colander and dry them on paper towels.

Christmas Eve 2007 – SR / WR liked, very easy

16 August 2008

10 May 2009 – Mom’s day w/ W & J

25 December 2015  – v.g.

 

Lime Sugar Cookies

I make lemon things. But I thought there has to be some limes cookies out there somewhere, right?  This recipe is very old, it has been in my cookie binder for donkey’s years, but I had never made until now. I even screwed up the egg yolk part and just added two eggs, didn’t seem to be a problem. I kept them in the fridge for two days before baking and it was still no big deal. I am a huge fan of these cookies.

This recipe was cut from a magazine, maybe Southern Living, but based on the font (yes, I’m that nerd), I’m guessing it was a Better Homes and Gardens that I used to borrow from my lovely mother-in-law.

3/4 unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar, divided – 1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup
zest of two limes
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Beat together 1 1/2 cups sugar and lime zest, and butter on medium speed until lightly creamed. Add the sour cream and mixed until combined. Stir in egg yolks and lime juice.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt over a piece of waxed paper. Add to egg / butter mixture until blended. Chill dough 1 hour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl. Shape dough into 1 inch balls, roll in sugar. Place on baking sheet. Bake 20 – 25 minutes until the edges begin to brown, bottom will be light golden. Remove to wire racks to cool.

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Lime Sugar Cookies

I think next time I will still roll them in sugar and bake them that way, but will make a glaze of lime juice and confectioners’ sugar, just to amp the lime up a bit more. Just a personal preference, but it gives you a little more lime of your cookie – never a bad thing in my opinion.